Defense attorney Kevin Short steps to the lectern to address the jury. In what is likely to be the understatement of the entire trial, he says, “This was stupid what these people did playing a practical joke with evidence.”
St. Paul police officer Timothy Rehak and Ramsey County Sheriff’s department public information officer Mark Naylon didn’t steal $6,000 of the $13,500 the FBI planted in room 503 of the St. Paul Kelly Inn in November 2004 as part of a sting operation. No, they took it to play a practical joke on another officer they didn’t like.
Actually, Short tells the jury of 16 in courtroom 12W of U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Ramsey County Sheriff Commander Roland Martinez was “always the butt of practical jokes because he has an inflated view of himself as a super cop.”
And everyone in the department knew Naylon was the biggest prankster of all.
Martinez had a habit of cutting out of the shift early to go home and have dinner with his wife, Short told the jury. This annoyed other officers in the department. The goal of this particular practical joke was to trick Martinez into thinking he had to return to the station, “in his footed jammies” after being called from bed.
The joke was simple, Short told the jury whose members listened to him with straight faces. Naylon spontaneously decided to take almost half the money the FBI had planted and leave Martinez, as the highest ranking officer at the scene, responsible for counting and recording the $7,500 they found in a black duffel in a dresser drawer while Martinez was searching the bathroom. Then they would call him at home and tell him they had found an additional $6,000. Martinez would have to get out of bed and return to the station late on a winter night. And that’s what they did, Short said.
The “cooperating individual” who had promulgated the FBI’s ruse by telling Rehak about the mobster who had supposedly abandoned cash and drugs in hotel room 503 was really a long time snitch who had just been busted for serious drug dealing. He was looking at 20 years in the slammer. To cut a deal on his time, the druggie offered up Rehak and got his sentence reduced to 90 days, Short told the jury.
The government was dead wrong when it said Rehak and Naylon ran data base checks on fictitious drug dealer Vinnie Pelagotti, from Chicago, because they smelled a rat. They were doing good police work trying to find the bad guy, Short told them.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, Short said, the evidence will show that Officer Rehak and Mr. Naylon were working hard to get the bad guy while playing a practical joke on Rollie Martinez.
Who do you call next? Judge Patrick Schiltz asked from the bench.
“Sergeant Roland Martinez,” replied prosecution attorney John Harty.