“It is a sad day when law enforcement must pursue one of their own,” said US Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois Stephen R. Wigginton. Particularly when it involves stealing evidence, or more specifically, gaming consoles Xbox 360s.
Wigginton was announcing on Thursday the guilty plea of Michael Baxton, the former police chief for the Village of Alorton and the City of East St. Louis. Baxton plead guilty to felony charges of stealing evidence and making false statements to federal investigators, according to a statement from the FBI. Baxton was released on bond pending sentencing on April 27.
“There is no pleasure to be taken in convicting a police officer,” Wigginton added; “…citizens may be confident that they can place their trust in the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers who are honest and professional and who risk their lives every day for our safety.”
Baxton became police chief of Alorton last May when his predecessor pleaded guilty to tax crimes. He was hired by East St. Louis on November 30, 2011, but resigned as part of his plea deal on January 18, 2012.
Alorton police officers reported to the feds that Baxton had been giving favorable treatment to arrestees related to or associated with an unnamed Alorton individual, according to the FBI statement, and that evidence under Baxton’s control was coming up missing and not making it to the crime laboratory for testing. The charges allege the Baxton and the unnamed individual were stealing evidence for personal use or profit.
Federal agents covertly arranged for a vehicle full of the gaming console Xbox 360s’ to become evidence under Baxton’s control. “Baxton responded to the call of an abandoned vehicle along with a Village of Alorton police officer who was assisting the federal investigation in an undercover capacity,” the FBI said. “When Baxton discovered the electronics in the purportedly stolen car, he took four of the devices and directed the other officer to take the fifth one.”
Baxton denied ever taking evidence for himself during a January 5 interview to agents from the IRS and FBI. Confronted with the Xbox 360 incident, Baxton told his interviewers another officer took the consoles, and that Baxton should not have let the officer take them.