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Ex-police officer in Jacksonville gets life in slaying

He strangled a convenience store chain owner in the back seat of his cruiser during a botched robbery in 1998.

©Associated Press

January 28, 2003

JACKSONVILLE -- A former police officer who took part in a crime ring with three colleagues will spend the rest of his life in prison for strangling a convenience store chain owner during a botched robbery.

Karl Waldon, who once aspired to be Duval County's sheriff, did not react when U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams Jr. handed down four life sentences Monday. He was also ordered to pay $58,900 in restitution.

Waldon declined to speak before his sentencing. His attorney, Russell Smith, said his client says he is innocent and will appeal.

Waldon was convicted Nov. 6 on 14 of 15 federal charges, including violating the civil rights of Sami Safar, who was strangled in the back seat of Waldon's police cruiser on July 3, 1998. Safar had just withdrawn $51,000 from a bank so that he could cash customer checks at his businesses.

Waldon was also convicted of taking drugs from drug dealers, trying to cover up his involvement by lying to a federal grand jury and trying to intimidate a witness. He was found innocent of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Witnesses testified that Waldon used his patrol car to stop Safar on the ruse that Safar was wanted on a warrant. The plan was to put the handcuffed Safar into the back of the patrol car and leave the bag containing the money in Safar's car, so that others in the conspiracy could come and steal it.

But Safar, who thought police were involved in an earlier robbery of his nephew, insisted on taking the cash with him. Moments later, Waldon called a friend, Kenneth McLaughlin, on his cell phone.

"He's seen my face. I've got to take him out," Waldon told McLaughlin. He then drove to a deserted parking lot and choked Safar with a rope, witnesses said.

McLaughlin dumped Safar's body into a thicket, where it was found the next day. He was sentenced last week to 19 years and seven months in prison on his pleas of guilty to conspiracy in the death of Safar and other crimes.

Others sentenced last week were former Officer Aric Sinclair, 34, who was given 17 years and seven months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy; former Officer Jason Pough, 36, sentenced to five years in prison and three years' probation for his part in a ring of theft and drug dealing; former Officer Reginald Bones, 36, sentenced to time served and three years' probation after pleading guilty to an unrelated bank fraud charge; and a friend of Sinclair's, Daryl Crowden, sentenced to four years in prison and three years' probation after pleading guilty to robbery and an unrelated drug charge.

Authorities said the conspiracy began in 1996 when Waldon, Pough and Sinclair started robbing drug dealers of money and drugs.

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