By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
For some reason, nobody seemed to have been that interested in following up. According to Maples, he did as he was asked, meeting with prosecutors and investigators time and again, painstakingly helping them build the case against Roper and anyone else they wanted, and at no small risk to himself. During Roper's trial, the cops Maples had named found out what he'd told the Dallas police internal affairs. One night during the two-week trial, Maples said, one of the cops Maples had snitched on managed to slip in the back door of the Lew Sterrett Justice Center, where Maples was jailed, and issue a threat.
"He said, 'There are a lot of officers who want a piece of you because you gave names,'" Maples told the rapt jury. "You'd better pray." The episode had spawned a new round in an endless series of internal affairs investigations that, the implication was, were destined to go nowhere.
Maples' attorney, Brook Busbee, passed the witness.
Harris got up to cross-examine. Skeptically, he asked about this "subculture of crooked cops." "What's the game?" Harris sneered.
"Shaking down drug dealers and taking their money," replied Maples with the slightest hint of exasperation.
"Oh, yeah?" challenged Harris. "Well, why don't you name a few?"
Inside the half-full courtroom, air molecules practically ceased humming.
"Sure," said Maples, rising to the bait--and with that, reeled off the names, descriptions, nicknames, or units of 11 officers.
The jury stared at Maples. The cops eyed the two furiously scribbling reporters in the courtroom. The prosecution finished its cross-examination, but after Maples' revelations, it was strictly downhill. "Well, I wonder if we're finally going to see this on the front page of the Morning News?" one internal affairs type sighed during a break.
The next morning, it was as if nothing had happened: no headline, no story, no hint of the extraordinary saga unfolding in an open courtroom, much less the behind-the-scenes mess that resulted in it all spilling out there. Maples' case went on much as the investigation had for two years, mostly on the Q.T., hush-hush, sort of Dallas Confidential.
Indeed, the lack of attention paid to Maples' case is startling, compared with an earlier, remarkably similar police corruption scandal. In 1992, former Dallas police officers Randy Harris and Swany Davenport--known on the streets as "Cruiser" and "Bruiser"--were indicted and convicted of shaking down more than $50,000 from drug dealers and others they arrested. But the response was considerably different. Back then, the police chief denounced Cruiser and Bruiser as the most corrupt cops in the history of the Dallas Police Department. The Dallas Morning News ran numerous stories on the pair, several on page one; Texas Monthly weighed in with a 9,000-word feature by Skip Hollandsworth. This time around, with more cops implicated and far more money stolen, DPD brass was studiously silent. Dallas' paper of record offered only the most timid coverage, buried deep inside; local TV news could barely be bothered.
But some courtroom observers were bothered, namely the jurors. The jurors got it, and were disturbed, and let it be known. After deliberating for just over two hours, they came back with a verdict: two years. And they told the judge that, as a group, they had a statement to make.
"We, the jury, are particularly troubled by the actions of the district attorneys in their dealings with Mr. Maples," the jury foreman read from a prepared text. "We in no way condone the actions of Mr. Maples. We feel a prison term is appropriate, as indicated by our sentence, but we think it is reprehensible that the DAs should make an offer and then renege. We feel the district attorney is indeed hypocritical in his deeds, words, and actions."
It was an unprecedented public spanking, and it did make the daily newspaper, buried below the fold in Metro, as was news of Quentis Roper's sentencing in mid-May. In Roper's case, the judge assessed punishment, sending the former officer away for 17 years.
But Maples' testimony had shaken up more than a few people, and behind the scenes, everyone was scrambling, championing versions of The Truth.
Broadly speaking, they fall into four categories. Variation one is Quentis Roper's story. Although a jury found him guilty of pilfering a breathtaking $144,000 from 10 people he'd arrested, Roper insists he is innocent. Echoing Cruiser and Bruiser's claims eight years earlier, Roper and his supporters say it's all a terrible mistake, that Roper was framed by a defense lawyer and his drug-dealing clients, railroaded by a racist district attorney's office, put away by a political judge. And Roper has the support of a surprising number of DPD rank and file, especially black officers, many of whom see in Roper's case the same troubling patterns they've seen in others: a black cop convicted on what they regard as flimsy evidence.
As for Maples, Roper has a ready answer. "Maples is crazy," Roper says from behind Plexiglas in a visiting booth at Lew Sterrett, where last May he began serving his sentence. "He is not living in reality." According to Roper and his defenders, in some cases money was probably not stolen at all; in others, it was most likely stolen by Maples, acting without Roper's knowledge. And what of that "subculture of crooked cops?" "That's fairy-tale shit," says Roper, with some passion.