On Tuesday, Robert Whitfield, a former Rikers prison guard, was handed a lengthy sentence for accepting a bribe from a drug dealer. Whitfield, 51, was arrested in 2011, after an investigation by the New York City Department of Investigation and the DEA’s New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force found that he had brokered a deal to take six and a half pounds of cocaine in exchange for promising to help shorten the drug dealer’s sentence. But it turns out that Whitfield had been looking around for a while for someone who was willing to bribe him. He was indiscreet about it. One of the inmates he approached promptly went to the authorities, and as a result, has received a shortened prison sentence. That inmate was in prison for possessing large amounts of drugs. Life is funny, isn’t it?
After a little shopping, Whitfield found an inmate, a heroin dealer named Julio Bello according to the New York Post , who was willing to go in on his coke-for-freedom plan. He told Bello that once the cocaine was in hand, he’d break into the Department of Corrections’ computer system and shorten his sentence. Instead, Whitfield was arrested in Inwood on April 5, 2011, as he waited near a drop-off point where he thought his accomplice was picking up the drugs. He was convicted May 30 on charges of drug possession, conspiracy, bribery and official misconduct.
During the trial, though, several inmates testified that Whitfield approached them about trading cocaine for freedom before he found someone who’d agree to his obviously brilliant bribe plot.
“He was shopping around, absolutely,” says Kati Cornell, the spokesperson for the city’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, Bridget G. Brennan.
But bargain-hunting for sympathetic dealers proved disastrous. The inmate who turned Whitfield in “was serving a sentence for an A-1 level felony,” Cornell says, “which carries a minimum of eight years.” After Whitfield approached him, the inmate contacted an NYPD detective with that DEA strike force.
“As a result of his cooperation in the case, he received a reduced sentence of four and a half years,” Cornell adds. “He’s been released.”
Eight years, incidentally, is how long Whitfield will be serving. The full press release from the SNP about his sentencing is below.