by Edmond Geary
Every profession has its bad apples, and the Tulsa Police Department made its contribution last year. An interesting question was raised in the case concerning the definition of crimes.
Marvin Blades was a police officer, patrolling in his police cruiser around town, protecting the citizens of Tulsa. But while on duty, he had a side job. He was robbing motorists. Engaging the emergency lights on his police car to stop cars, he ordered the drivers to walk away from their car, and ordered them to leave their wallets in the car. Later, they found cash missing from their wallets. He focused especially on Hispanic drivers
There was no evidence Blades ever pointed his weapon at anyone nor even took it out of his holster. Yet he was convicted of robbery with a firearm, and now the Court of Criminal Appeals has affirmed his convictions, all five counts of robbery with a firearm. Blades waived a jury trial, so he was tried to a judge and chose not to testify. The judge sentenced him to a term of 35 years imprisonment, followed by 35 years suspended sentence. The judge indicated that the prison portion of the sentence has an “85 percent” requirement, meaning Blades will have to serve almost 30 years behind bars before becoming eligible for parole. If he were paroled, he would then begin to serve the suspended portion of his sentence, for 35 more years.
The evidence presented was that Blades took the cash from the motorists’ cars, not from their persons. The taking of money-without more- is larceny; it is distinguished from robbery by the element of force or threat. There is even a crime of “Larceny from a Person,” where the money is taken from the person without the person even aware of it, so no violence or threat is done to the person. Robbery is taking money from a person by force or threat of force. In this case it was by the threat of a firearm. Robbery was found because the motorists left their wallets in the car at the command of Blades. The prosecution argued, and the court found, that compliance was obtained by fear of the firearm Blades was wearing with his uniform.
The investigation was begun by reports from Blades’s’ fellow officers that something was suspicious about Blades. After looking into things, police investigators suspected Blades was targeting Hispanics during traffic stops and stealing their money, so they set up an undercover sting operation with an Hispanic agent of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Agent Jesse Diaz testified he got himself arrested by Blades for a traffic violation, and that Blades took $600 from him during a traffic stop in August 2012
Diaz said he was undercover and portraying an “immigrant worker” who didn’t speak English and who had been drinking when he was pulled over by Blades. Diaz carried a wallet containing $1,040 cash, including six $100 bills. He said Blades instructed him to leave the wallet in his vehicle and walk away and stand by Blades’ patrol car. Blades leaned into Diaz’s vehicle and gave Diaz the wallet back, allowing him to leave without a citation. Later, Diaz discovered the six $100 bills were missing, according to the testimony.
Blades was arrested early the next morning, and the $100 bills were found in his pocket. Blades told police the money belonged to his wife. However, the serial numbers of those six $100 bills matched those listed in the money police had counted out to agent Diaz when Diaz was sent out to get himself arrested by Blades.