Pittsburgh, PA – An Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office clerk will serve only one day behind bars for tipping off the targets of a drug raid and putting officers’ lives at risk.
Erika Romanowski, a former clerk for the sheriff’s department, was sentenced to only one day in prison and six months of home detention for tipping off gang members about an upcoming raid with a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) task force, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Prosecutors said that Romanowski, in her job at the sheriff’s office, was privy to details about an upcoming raid by the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on a violent gang called the Greenway Boy Killas.
The former clerk pleaded guilty to tipping off her friend Jewell Hall and his girlfriend, Joelle Harris, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Prosecutors said Romanowski was trying to protect Hall, a reputed gang ringleader.
She gave them information during a series of calls that ran from February through April of 2018, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
When she was eventually confronted by the FBI for the leaks, Romanowski lied about what she had done, according to an indictment released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania on July 25, 2018.
"This indictment alleges that Erika Romanowski violated the public trust by leaking sensitive law enforcement information she learned while employed at the Sheriff’s Office, and then falsely denied making the disclosure when questioned by the FBI," U.S. Attorney Scott Brady announced in a statement. "Every government employee with knowledge of a criminal investigation must maintain its confidentiality, whether or not they serve in a law enforcement capacity. Even more troubling, her actions could have jeopardized the safety of law enforcement officers. Corruption regardless of station will be prosecuted."
“Romanowski faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 for the obstruction of justice charge and a maximum sentence of 5 years’ imprisonment and a fine of $250,000 for the false statements charge,” the statement read.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Olshan said Romanowski’s actions “were borne of cold opportunism and, as she has admitted, a corrupt desire to help Hall evade federal law enforcement. In this regard, the defendant acted in real time to thwart the important and commendable work of her own colleagues to dismantle a notorious narcotics operation.”
Olshan said Romanowski knew that she was putting the people she worked with in danger when she tipped off the gang members about the raid, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
She pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in November of 2018, and the prosecutor asked the judge to sentence Romanowski to 18 to 24 months in prison.
But her attorney, Stanley Greenfield, argued that alerting all your friends to the presence of authorities in the neighborhood was customary in the community where Romanowski lives, and that she didn’t realize she was doing anything wrong when she called Hollis repeatedly to warn Hall, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
“It is important for the court to understand that in the culture of Ms. Romanowski’s community, it is common for friends and neighbors to make others aware of the presence of police, or investigators of any stripe, even in the absence of any specific knowledge as to why the police had come,” Greenfield wrote in court papers.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab on March 18 sentenced Romanowski to just one day in lockup, six months of home detention, and 100 hours of community service, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Hall and Hollis were charged in June of 2018 on various drug trafficking offenses, along with 14 other suspects affiliated with the Greenway Boy Killas, the Tarentum Valley News Dispatch reported.