On their fifth day of deliberations, a federal jury found former Jacksonville police officer Karl Waldon guilty of 14 of the 15 counts against him -- including two charges that could carry the death penalty.
The defendant, court officials and lawyers quickly gathered late Wednesday to hear the verdict. Eyewitness News reporter Jen Waugh reported that Waldon (pictured, left, leaving the courthouse Wednesday) showed no emotion as he stood to hear the verdict.
Waldon is now convicted in the strangulation death of Northside businessman Sami Safar (pictured, right), who was found murdered on the 4th of July, 1998.
"Obviously we're pleased with the verdict," lead prosecutor Jim Klint said. He refused to elaborate about the case as the penalty phase of the case will begin next week.
Waldon was arrested almost two years ago after a federal indictment charged him with 15 counts, including Safar's murder, kidnapping, robbery and the sale of cocaine -- an investigation that began more than four years ago when Jacksonville police began to hear stories from drug dealers that officers had stolen money and drugs from them.
Jacksonville Sheriff Nat Glover said late Wednesday that justice had been served in the case.
"You've got a number of officers -- some angry about what has happened here, some same; some feel embarrassed," Nat Glover said to the media about an hour after the verdict was made public. "Of course, I've felt all those emotions, so I certainly understand. And of course I feel bad for the victim's family, as well."
Waldon was found not guilty of one count -- that of possession of crack cocaine with an intent to distribute.
During the trial, prosecutors called Waldon, 39, greedy and arrogant, and told the jury that he killed Safar when plans to robbed him of $51,000 withdrawn from the bank to cash payroll checks at the man's four convenience spun out of control.
A two-year federal investigation lead to a 26-count indictment that included Waldon, two other Jacksonville police officers and several others. The indictment portrayed a web of robbery, drug dealing and corruption that ultimately led to Safar's murder.
All the defendants reached plea agreements with federal prosecutors, and most of them testified against Waldon. That fact was central to Waldon's defense, with attorney A. Russell Smith telling the jury in his closing argument that Waldon was the victim of lies from a group of corrupt officers and witnesses.
"The government's case is based on the testimony of cooperating criminals who lied over and over and over again. Every single one of them testified differently or told a different story," Smith said.
Attorneys expected the trial to take 4 to 6 weeks, but it actually took only about three -- including one week of jury deliberations.
The eight-woman, four-man jury will return the federal courthouse Tuesday morning to begin hearing the death penalty phase of the trial.
- October 30, 2002: Jacksonville Police Corruption Case In Hands Of Jury
- October 28, 2002: Waldon Defense Implicates Different Officer In Murder
- October 25, 2002: Prosecution Rests In Waldon Trial
- October 22, 2002: Second Ex-Officer Testifies Against Waldon In Murder Trial
- October 18, 2002: Witness Testifies He Saw Ex-Cop Commit Murder
- October 17, 2002: Defense Implicates Star Witness With Another Murder
- October 16, 2002: Prosecutors: Corrupt Cops Were 'Greedy,' 'Bold'
- October 2, 2002: Jury Selection Begins In Karl Waldon Trial
- August 28, 2002: Feds Indict Ex-Cop With More Charges
- September 7, 2001: Sinclair Pleads Guilty
- August 28, 2001: Former Cop To Face Federal Death Penalty
- August 7, 2001: Witness In Federal Police Probe Pleads Guilty
- April 25, 2001: Pough Pleads Guilty, Will Testify In Case
- April 11, 2001: New Allegations Say Waldon Planned To Kill Friend
- January 31, 2001: Judge Denies Bond For Former Police Officer
- January 29, 2001: Prosecutors Admit Weaknesses In Case Against Former Officer
- December 18, 2000: Officer To Be Extradited Back To Jacksonville