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GREENBELT, Md. (November 18, 2010)—A federal judge Wednesday ordered one of the three Prince George's County Police officers arrested this week in an FBI corruption probe detained until his trial date in U.S. District Court.
Magistrate Judge Charles Day said Officer Sinisa Simic's charges of conspiring to distribute cocaine and possession of firearms for drug trafficking made him a threat to the community.
"He not only talked about, but promised and delivered on obtaining a gun," Day said during the detention hearing.
Simic, 25, of Woodbridge, Va., is one of nine people named in two separate indictments Monday related to alcohol, tobacco and drug smuggling in Prince George's County. He was the first of the three county police officers charged to appear in court.
Prosecutors allege that Simic, along with Mirza Kujundzic, 30, of Woodbridge, conspired to transport 500 grams of cocaine through Maryland.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Copperthite said Simic first appeared on the government's radar in connection with Monday's other indictment - one that led to the arrest of seven people, including fellow police officers Sgt. Richard Delabrer, 45, and Cpl. Chong Chin Kim, 42.
Copperthite alleged that in addition to helping to transport untaxed cigarettes through Maryland and Virginia, Simic and Kujundzic wanted to take the scheme one step further by transporting cocaine through Maryland and into New York and New Jersey.
Prosecutors outlined an operation in which Simic would drive the cigarettes and drugs while carrying his police badge and department - issued weapon, with Kujundzic following in a lookout vehicle.
Government surveillance video showed Kujundzic delivering cocaine to Simic, with his gun visible, Copperthite said.
Prosecutors said that during 60 days of wiretapping Simic's phone, he also repeatedly promised Kujundzic a high-powered weapon.
"In several calls, Simic wanted Kujundzic to have a gun, to 'be strapped' during protection detail," Copperthite said.
Federal officials recovered both Simic's police service weapon and the handgun he obtained, presumably for Kujundzic, as part of the investigation, prosecutors said.
Simic's lawyer, Brian Stolarz, argued that his client had not left the D.C.-metro area since arriving in the United States from Bosnia in 1998.
"He's not a flight risk," Stolarz said. "He could have fled during the last three months, but he didn't."
Simic had been suspended from the county police force for the past three months, Stolarz said, while a drug investigation against him proceeded.
But Day disagreed, saying the fact that they recovered the gun rendered him a public threat.
Stolarz said during and after the hearing that cooler heads needed to prevail in the decision to detain Simic.
"What has happened since Friday has kind of been a frenzy," Stolarz said. "The process needs to work itself out."
On Friday, FBI agents arrested County Executive Jack B. Johnson and his wife, County Council member-elect Leslie Johnson, in connection with a federal investigation of county officials' sweetheart deals with developers. Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for Maryland, said after their court appearance that there would be more arrests in connection with the wide-ranging federal corruption probe.
Kujundzic was scheduled to face a judge Wednesday as well, but the hearing was postponed when defense attorneys requested more time to prepare.
In another hearing, Day released Chun Chen, 34, of Bowie, to the custody of his wife. Chen was charged with six others in a plot to transport untaxed alcohol and cigarettes.
Chen's lawyer, Wayne Wiseman, declined to comment following his hearing.