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By Jeff Coen
Chicago Tribune

CHICAGO - It didn't take Richard Doroniuk long as a new tactical officer in the Morgan Park District to learn that on Chicago's mean streets, just about every rule could be broken.
Officers carried a little crack cocaine to plant on suspects when searches came up empty and stole cash from drug dealers during raids and traffic stops. They also routinely paid informants, falsified reports, lied in court and even kicked back cash to a judge for pushing through a bogus warrant, Doroniuk testified Wednesday in federal court.
"He had asked for it," Doroniuk said without naming the judge.
The former officer's account came on the first day of testimony in the corruption trial of onetime partner Mahmoud Shamah, 29, who is charged with conspiring to use his police powers to carry out thefts. The two were accused of raiding storage lockers in 2006 and pocketing more than $30,000. The cash had been stashed by the FBI as part of a sting.
In court Wednesday, as Doroniuk identified his former partner for the record, Shamah stared back as he tapped his pen loudly on a legal pad at the defense table.
In opening remarks, Assistant U.S. Atty. Christina Egan told jurors they would hear tapes of the officers as they raided the lockers.
"They weren't the good guys," she said.
Shamah's lawyer, Anthony Pinelli, said he would hardly contest that the officers may have stepped out of bounds in the heat of the moment. But he promised to show that any thefts were crimes of opportunity, not the product of a conspiracy.
Shamah, who resigned from the force this fall, took plenty of notes as Doroniuk, 32, walked the jury through the day-to-day work of a corrupt plainclothes cop.
It was easy to steal money when drug dealers had no idea how much cash they were carrying -- and couldn't complain to anyone, he said.
Officers carried "insurance drugs" for the times when a suspect might swallow a bag or a search warrant came up empty, Doroniuk testified. Then what? Egan asked.
"Plant it," he answered in reference to the cocaine.
As for his allegation about a crooked judge, Doroniuk said the exchange came when he used a lying informant to obtain a search warrant. He offered no detail except to say that a judge got cash on the side.
As he began his cross-examination of Doroniuk, Pinelli asked how many people might have endured a wrongful drug conviction because of his misdeeds.
"I don't know," Doroniuk replied. "I never followed the cases."

Wire Service
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