JPD officer pleads guilty to extortion, facing prison

A former Jasper police officer has pleaded guilty in federal court to charges he extorted money from an unnamed drug dealer in exchange for information regarding police investigations into illegal drug activity in the city. Leverne Dewaun Hill Jr. pleaded guilty March 23 to charges of extortion and bribery, according to a plea agreement given to the Eagle by the U.S. Attorney’s Office this week. Hill was indicted in January in federal court in Birmingham on charges of extortion and bribery. According to the indictment, in April 2015 Hill “proposed that Individual A pay Hill $25,000 for information related to the Jasper Police Department’s investigation affecting Individual A's drug business, so that Individual A would not be arrested or prosecuted.” Hill was reportedly paid $10,000 in four installments over the course of several months. The first two payments were made in cash, the indictment says, while Hill was in uniform and driving a patrol vehicle. Two other payments were made via wire transfers from Individual A’s bank account to Hill’s bank account. Bank records confirmed the wire transfers. The indictment also said Hill “fronted money to drug dealers for drug transactions involving crack cocaine and heroin, and received the profit from those transactions.” Jasper Police Chief J.C. Poe said Hill’s possible involvement in illegal activity came to light last summer.

“Back in July, we received information that one of our officers was receiving money from drug dealers in exchange for information,” Poe said. An investigation into the allegations began soon after by Jasper police and the FBI. “The indictments that came down were the results of that investigation,” he said. The indictment says Hill gave a voluntary statement when questioned by FBI agents and confessed to receiving money from Individual A and another drug dealer. Hill also admitted to fronting money to two other drug dealers for the purchase and resale of drugs so that he could receive the profit. According to the plea agreement, Hill agrees to “surrender all law enforcement licenses and certifications he holds before the date of sentencing in this case; and not seek, accept or maintain employment in the field of law enforcement or in a position where he has custodial authority over other individuals, including as a correctional or probation officer or bondsman.” As part of the plea agreement, Hill waived his right to appeal any sentence he may be given. When he’s sentenced in June, Hill could face imprisonment up to 20 years, a fine of not more than $250,000 and supervised release of not more than three years. Poe called the crimes committed by Hill “disappointing.” “It’s a big disappointment,” he said. “You hope that your police officers take their oath seriously and are held to a higher standard. It’s disappointing when they fail to do that.”