Two Houston Police officers accused of using their badges to protect a load of cocaine being smuggled were charged in federal court Monday.
The officers, who wore matching dark blue pants and black shirts that appeared to be uniform-like, were advised of the charges and read their rights during a brief hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Milloy.
Emerson Canizales, 26, of Kingwood, and Michael Miceli, 26, of Humble, were paid $1,000 a piece to protect the drugs. They now face up to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to a federal indictment.
In an unusual move, given the penalties they face, prosecutors do not object to them being conditionally released on bond pending an outcome to the case.
Milloy approved $50,000 bond for both men.
Both stood with their arms behind their backs during the hearing and had family looking on from the courtroom spectator area.
Miceli, who has a lawyer, is expected to plead not guilty later today. Canizales does not yet have counsel.
Canizales and Miceli were arrested Sunday afternoon when they reported for duty.
A two-count indictment against the officers alleges they conspired to possess cocaine with intent to distribute it in the Houston area about Dec. 26, officials said. It also alleges that they accepted about $1,000 to provide protection.
"We have been working cooperatively with federal authorities on this investigation and are proud that our internal proactive measures have proven effective in addressing these types of allegations," said Houston Police Department Chief Charles A. McClelland, Jr.
"We will never tolerate criminal misconduct from any of our employees. The allegations against these officers are not reflective of the hard-working men and women at HPD."
Canizales and Miceli have been relieved of duty with pay pending the outcome of the investigation into the case, said John Cannon, an HPD spokesman.
Cannon said both officers have been on the force since September 2010. Canizales is assigned to North Patrol while Miceli is assigned to Kingwood Patrol. They were arrested without incident, Cannon said.
If the officers are convicted of possession with the intent to distribute, they each face 10 years to life in prison as well as a possible $10 million fine.
If convicted of extortion under the Hobbs Act violation, they also each could receive up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.