By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"Danny Maples' jury gave him two years," marvels former Dallas police officer Quentis Roper. "And they felt bad about it. Geez Louise, he had jurors crying for him. There were jurors laughing when they convicted me."
It is a Friday afternoon in late May, and Roper is speaking from inside the Dallas County jail. It's an almost unbelievable place to find Roper, 33, a former Rice University quarterback and Pinkston High School class president, a gifted student, devoted son, and doting father, a genuine hero to his community, a man who joined the Dallas Police Department because he wanted to help others. Instead, in April, a Dallas County jury convicted the handsome black cop of helping himself to $144,000 from 10 people shaken down during arrests.
Roper still insists he's innocent. Comparing himself to former Dallas City Councilman Al Lipscomb, he says he was convicted in a political trial because "It is not the right time for any public official to be in trouble." Nevertheless, on May 14, state Judge John Creuzot sentenced him to 17 years in the state pen; in August, he was sent to the Goree Unit in Huntsville. Barring a major miracle--namely reversal on appeal--Roper will be there until at least April 2002. And getting out then may take a minor miracle, since Huntsville is not the place where a Rice-educated former cop is likely to do easy time.
On this May afternoon, however, Roper was focused not on these unpleasant realities, but on Danny Maples, the rat who did him in. "I don't understand why they were all so afraid of that idiot Maples," fumes Roper. "I told my attorney that we ought to subpoena Maples, so the jury could see how this all got started. This guy is as non-credible as the drug dealers."
Like Roper, Danny Maples is a former Dallas cop, now doing time for stealing $27,000 from seven people. Unlike Roper, Maples admitted he was guilty and turned state's evidence. As a result, Maples' immediate future will be far easier. This spring, a jury gave Maples just two years' punishment, making him eligible for parole as early as next month. And since Maples is cooperating with federal authorities looking into DPD corruption, he will do his time in the Dallas County jail, the Ritz-Carlton of local pokeys.
Maples never testified against Roper. Yet Roper knows it is what Maples said, and gave, to authorities that made the difference, that made it possible to take the word of drug dealers, illegal aliens, and prostitutes over one of the finest of Dallas' finest. And when Maples turned himself in, he brought along mute witnesses: $49,000, cash which Maples said represented his cut of what he, Roper, and other officers had stolen.
Roper and his supporters have no ready explanation for the money. When pressed, they say Maples must have taken payoffs from dealers, or have stolen it himself. And then, they get down to brass tacks.
"You got this crazy-ass white boy who come in and everybody believe what he say, just because he white and Quentis black," charges Patriece Alexander, Roper's fiancée and, until May, his live-in girlfriend. "And you won't never understand what it's like, 'cause you aren't in a black skin."
Though they overstate the case, there is a troubling aspect to Danny Maples' story: Danny Maples. It isn't so much that Maples fancies himself a novelist and tries to pawn off a slim manuscript on a reporter, seeking help finding an agent and a publisher. It isn't his fondness for tall tales, or his tendency to exaggerate, or his active imagination, evident in letters to a former girlfriend; verisimilitude isn't Maples' strength, and his lies are usually awkward, self-aggrandizing, and easy to spot, like the one about the Mexican mafia having put out a contract on his life.
It isn't even that he seems to be enjoying his, oh, five seconds of fame so far. No, the troubling part is that Danny Maples is a storyteller--and despite that, when you take apart what he says and put it back together and check it against mountains of witness statements and court records, so much of his story holds up.
That, and the fact that he and Roper nearly got away with it.
"Had I kept my mouth shut," Maples acknowledges, "I'd be out there now. There are a lot of officers who did, and who are."
And in the end, many of Roper's friends and supporters cite this, too, as evidence of Maples' insanity. "[Dallas police Public Integrity] didn't have anything on either of them until Maples turned himself in," says one, amazed. "What kind of fool would do that?"
"I felt awful," Maples says. "That's why I stopped his friends" and gave them contact numbers for the jail--so they could reach their buddy Lopez--as well as public integrity.
There is also some indication that, during the arrest, Roper and Maples had words. Roper says Maples wanted to arrest Lopez and he didn't; Maples says he wanted to return Lopez's money, but Roper told him no. When they arrived at the jail with Lopez, Maples later told investigators, "I [said] we agreed on drug dealers, this kid is not a drug dealer, this is not right."