Skyline Task Force: Shocking Allegations of Racism, Corruption, and Distributing Drugs for Profit
Written by: Sam Orlando
AUGUSTA COUNTY, VIRGINIA – A motion filed in the Circuit Court of Augusta County in a long dormant criminal case from 2018 is raising significant ethical and legal questions about the operations of the now-disbanded Skyline Drug Task Force. Derrick A. Harris, who served as an informant for the task force, sought a reconsideration of his seven-year sentence due to previously undisclosed exculpatory "Brady" evidence and other irregularities in his case.
The motion, filed by Harris's counsel, alleges a series of startling revelations. Harris was allegedly provided money, drugs, and an apartment by the task force to facilitate drug sales, with the objective of reporting these transactions. The police would then use this information to target individuals and potentially flip them into informants, a practice that critics argue turns victims of addiction into drug dealers with law enforcement protection. Those government funded drug dealers are then free to sell their drugs in your community, perhaps to your children, all with the blessings of the Augusta County Sheriff's Office.
This controversial strategy is now under scrutiny, as the task force was officially disbanded last month amidst an investigation into it's activities. It is claimed that the task force failed to disclose vital exculpatory evidence, specifically concerning the questionable conduct of Investigator Mikolay, a key witness in Harris's trial.
The motion details that Harris's co-defendant received a significantly reduced sentence due to the late disclosure of evidence related to Mikolay's alleged use of racial slurs during an arrest. This information, according to the motion, was not shared with Harris's defense team in a timely fashion, effectively depriving him of the opportunity to challenge the credibility of the testimony against him. Attorneys call this a "brady violation", because of the name of the case that set forth the practice that prosecutors must turn over to the defendant evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of officers involved in a case.
The issue takes on a deeper significance given the racial dynamics at play. The defendant and Mikolay are of different races, and the defense alleged racial biases of the investigator could have influenced the outcome of the case. The motion claims that had this information been disclosed, it might have led to a different verdict or at least offered grounds for an appeal within the appropriate time frame.
The revelations in the motion are part of a broader examination of the Skyline Drug Task Force, which has faced criticism for its methods and oversight. This case, in particular, underscores the potential dangers of law enforcement agencies manipulating individuals struggling with addiction for operational gains.
As this story unfolds, questions are being raised about the integrity of the criminal justice process and the potential for reform. The focus is not just on the past actions of the defunct task force but also on ensuring that current law enforcement practices protect the rights and dignity of those they engage with, especially the most vulnerable.
For Harris, the motion for reconsideration was rejected by the trial court, and for years this motion and decision lay dormant. Last week Breaking Through News received a news tip with a copy of the motion in Harris' case attached.
This article is part of a series investigating the now-defunct Skyline Drug Task Force and its impact on the community it once served.