In a long-rumored move, several plaintiffs — including the Delatorre brothers, allegedly ousted from the Counter Narcotics Team as whistleblowers — have brought civil racketeering and corruption charges against several high-profile local defendants.
The defendants include: Former Savannah City Manager Michael Brown, former Chatham County Manager Russ Abolt, former Chatham County Commission Chairman Pete Liakakis, former Police Chief Willie Lovett (now imprisoned), former Interim Chief Julie Tolbert, and a host of staff in the Savannah Chatham Metro Police.
The suit in Superior Court also targets the estate of former Internal Affairs head Andre Oliver, who committed suicide as the controversy unfolded which eventually led to Lovett's ouster.
See the full complaint here
The complaint alleges that "the managers of both the County and the City were key participants in the furtherance of the criminal activity of the corrupt enterprise," referring to allegations that Brown, Abolt, Lovett, and other defendants conspired to allow the environment which effectively guaranteed the shipment of illegal narcotics to Savannah streets.
Michael Brown is alleged to have told former Police Chief Michael Berkow, who wanted to fire Lovett, that "elected officials in the City of Savannah protected Lovett, and Brown refused to allow Berkow to fire Lovett."
The suit also alleges that during Lovett's tenure there was a "criminal organization" within SCMPD "that included multiple officers and individuals within local government... 'selling high grade marijuana, cocaine, and ecstasy pills in large amounts.'"
The suit says those corrupt officers were remnants of the so-called "Savannah 11" corrupt cop ring which were untouched by that investigation in the mid-90s.
The suit says an informant told CNT that "corrupt officers inside the Savannah Police Department were not charged during the 'Savannah 11' investigation. The informant said these officers had been promoted in the department and now held positions of power."
One of the defendants, former officer Floyd Sawyer, starred in a locally produced rap video "You Don't Want This Life," in which rappers perform in front of his squad car.
Sawyer is currently in federal prison for extorting Oxycontin from a contact.
The suit says the Delatorre brothers, Peter and Michael, met with former interim Chief Julie Tolbert — installed after Lovett's resignation — and told her "they feared for their lives if they had to work alongside armed officers whom they knew to be corrupt and had reported as being corrupt."
Michael Delatorre alleges that during his exit interview, Chief Tolbert said "she knew that Lovett's actions as police chief were wrong. But she said she felt she could do nothing about Lovett's bad acts while they were occurring."
Another officer named in the suit, Eric Henderson, is accused of using unmarked police vehicles to "distribute multiple ounces of powder and crack cocaine on Savannah's Westside and to protect drug dealers on Savannah's Westside from arrest."
At one point the suit references a meeting at Olympia Cafe between Pete Liakakis and former Major Mark Gerbino in which the Chairman was told of corruption but "took no action to remove Lovett from his position" as Major.
Lovett was later named police chief.
The suit also alleges Gerbino had a similar meeting with County Manager Abolt, and that Abolt subsequently told Lovett of his conversation with Gerbino.