East St. Louis Police detective Orlando Ward and six others were charged Friday in U.S. District Court with conspiracy to distribute and possession with intent to distribute five kilos of cocaine.
"It's very shocking -- very disappointing," U.S. District Attorney Stephen Wigginton said Friday morning. "He was well respected by his fellow law enforcement officers."
At 11:10 a.m. Friday, Ward, 41, of Belleville, was led by an FBI agent and followed by a deputy U.S. marshal into the courtroom.
He looked at the floor as he walked to the defense table and sat next to his attorney, James Gomric of Belleville.
The courtroom was filled with members of the East St. Louis Police Department, city employees and Ward's family members. Many said they were shocked because Ward was a member of the Greater St. Louis Major Case Squad, and, during his 13 years with the department, was instrumental in helping to solve homicides and other serious crimes.
If convicted, Ward faces 10 years to life in federal prison and up to a $10 million fine. He is on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of the case.
"We have only begun to assess the damage this may do to some serious past and pending violent criminal cases," St. Clair County State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said about how the charges could affect cases involving Ward.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Wilkerson presided over the arraignment. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kit Morrissey was joined at the government's table by Wigginton and some federal agents.
The grand jury indictment charged Ward with the defendants and others to traffic cocaine in excess of five kilograms. When the charge was read aloud, some members of the audience gasped. Some cried. East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Floore clasped his head in his hands and said "um, um, um."
Floore later said he was "baffled, outdone, shocked and at a loss for words."
Other federal and local law enforcement officers said they were stunned and felt "betrayed" by Ward. They said he was respected, trusted and that they never would have guessed he would be operating on the other side of the law.
Ward did not want to have the judge read the full indictment aloud in the courtroom. He told Wilkerson he had been given enough time to review the indictment with his attorney; he then entered a not guilty plea.
The others charged in the drug conspiracy are Martez Moore, also known as "Tez" or "Mo," 38, of Belleville; Antwone "Twon" Johnson, 33, of Cahokia; Dewayne Hill, 38, of St. Clair County; Brian "Caine" Matthews, 46, of St. Clair County; Jaren "J" Jamison, 25, of Cahokia; and Bryant Sawyer, 27, of St. Clair County. All face from two to four counts on the drug charges plus a charge of possessing guns while engaged in drug trafficking.
They were arraigned Friday afternoon.
"It is quite frustrating and disappointing," East St. Louis Mayor Alvin L. Parks Jr. said.
Moore, Johnson, Hill, Matthews, Jamison, and Sawyer were also charged with possession of a firearm to further a drug trafficking crime. Moore and Johnson also were charged with two counts of distribution of crack cocaine.
Ward's bond hearing is at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Ward's trial is at 9 a.m. July 8 before U.S. District Judge Michael J. Reagan.
The federal government is seeking to seize firearms and ammunition that Moore, Johnson, Hill, Matthews, Jamison and Sawyer used while committing the drug crime.