Former Atlanta Police sergeant Wilbert Stallings was sentenced last week to prison for conspiring to violate civil rights by breaking into a private residence to search for drugs without a warrant. The incident occurred in October 2005, but was not uncovered until one of Stallings’ subordinates was involved in another incident and began cooperating with the FBI in identifying other police misconduct.
In a statement issued June 19, United States Attorney David E. Nahmias said:
“Breaking into a private residence without a warrant or provocation is the ultimate violation of our constitutional right to be secure in our homes. Indeed, it is the very definition of lawlessness. Thankfully, the vast majority of police officers understand that their badges and guns do not grant them authority to ignore the Bill of Rights. For those few who still don’t get it, today’s sentence should send a message that police officers are sworn not just to enforce the law but, like all citizens, to obey it. Officers who violate the law risk their careers and, again like all citizens, their liberty. Sergeant Stallings should feel fortunate that the resident in this case was not home and not armed, or this civil-rights conspiracy could have had the same tragic end as the one that took the life of Kathryn Johnston the following year.”
Stallings was sentenced to 18 months in prison to be followed by 2 years of supervised release, and was ordered to perform 80 hours of community service.
Stallings, a 23-year veteran of the APD and a sergeant in the narcotics unit, had joined several other APD officers in executing a search warrant. Gregg Junnier, one of the officers who would later be convicted for his involvement in the Kathryn Johnston shooting, was a member of the narcotics team under Stallings’ command. Junnier had obtained a search warrant for the apartment at 1058 Dill Avenue, but not for 1056 Dill Avenue, an adjacent apartment. According to Stallings’ guilty plea, the officers agreed to break into 1056 to search it after they did not find drugs in the other apartment. When their search revealed no drugs, Stallings then instructed his team to leave the apartment and shut the door. He made a statement to the effect of: “Just shut the door. They’ll just think it was a break-in.”