Former Village of Alorton and East St. Louis Police Chief Michael Baxton Sr. Sentenced for Theft of Evidence and Making False Statements to Federal Investigators
The former police chief for the Village of Alorton and the City of East St. Louis was sentenced in United States District Court on April 27, 2012, for stealing evidence and making false statements to federal investigators, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today. Michael Baxton, Sr., 49, was sentenced to federal prison for one year; was ordered to pay a $200 special assessment and a $2,000 fine; and was ordered to serve a two year term of supervised release following completion of his prison sentence. Baxton, Sr. pled guilty to the charges on January 19, 2012.
In May, 2011, Baxton was hired by the Village of Alorton to serve as the police chief. Baxton was appointed to fill the vacancy created after the previous Alorton police chief, Robert L. Cummings, pled guilty to unrelated federal tax crimes. Baxton served as the Village of Alorton chief of police until October 14, 2011, when the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board decertified Baxton as a police officer after discovering that he had received two felony convictions from 1982 (theft of more than $150, in Madison Co. case 81-CF-751; and burglary, in Madison Co. case 81-CF-752).
On November 17, 2011, a St. Clair County judge reinstated Baxton’s law enforcement credentials because his felony convictions had been expunged in 1989. The order criticized the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board for decertifying Baxton, stating that their actions “resulted in significant damage to Mr. Baxton." The judge ironically continued, "He lost employment. He was falsely designated a liar and felon. He was subjected to public humiliation.” United States Attorney Steve Wigginton said, “Baxton fooled the judge who re-certified him, but he did not fool the IRS and FBI.”
David A Ford, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Springfield Division stated, “Public officials are entrusted with power from the public they serve. Corrupt public officials destroy the trust our citizens have placed in their government. Combating public corruption is the number one priority of the FBI’s criminal investigative division, and we will make every effort to investigate and bring to justice all those who violate this trust and deprive the American public of the honest service they deserve.”
After being reinstated to serve as a police officer, Baxton was hired by the City of East St. Louis to be that city’s police chief on November 30, 2011. He served in that capacity until January 18, 2012, when he resigned based upon his agreement to plead guilty to the current charges. Baxton previously served as the East St. Louis police chief from June 29, 2007, until February 13, 2009.
The current charges against Baxton were unrelated to his decertification by the Illinois Police Training and Standards Board. That investigation concerned allegations of systemic corruption within the Village of Alorton by various public officials. In the months following his appointment, it was learned that Baxton intervened to provide favorable treatment to arrestees who were family members or associates of Mayor Randy McCallum or himself. It was further alleged that Baxton and McCallum were stealing evidence for their personal use and/or profit. Based upon these facts, federal investigators decided to conduct a proactive integrity-test operation on October 5, 2011.
On that date, federal agents arranged for a federally owned covert vehicle to be registered to a fictitious Illinois business and to be entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database as stolen. The purportedly stolen vehicle was loaded with five Xbox 360 video gaming consoles that had been purchased by the FBI for the sting operation. 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. 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 to his home.
On January 5, 2012, Baxton was interviewed by agents from the IRS and FBI. During that interview, Baxton denied ever taking anything while working as a police officer. When confronted with the fact that agents knew gaming consoles had been stolen, Baxton blamed Officer #1 for theft; stating that Officer #1 took all of the devices and that he shouldn’t have let Officer #1 do that. When confronted more directly, Baxton admitted taking four Xbox gaming consoles. He apologized and assisted in recovering each of the four game systems that stole on October 5, 2011.
The investigation was conducted through the Metro East Public Corruption Task Force by agents from the Internal Revenue Service, the Illinois State Police, the Columbia, Illinois Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Steven D. Weinhoeft and Norman R. Smith.