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East Cleveland officer sentenced to 2 years in prison for stealing from multiple people while on duty

Posted at 2:10 PM, Sep 14, 2023

CLEVELAND — East Cleveland Police Officer Willie Sims was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to stealing from multiple people while on duty from July 2020 to July 2021. Sims will also have to pay restitution to his victims and $40,000 in fines.

According to the prosecutor's office, on July 7, 2020, Sims responded to an altercation in the parking lot of a gas station near Euclid and Shaw avenues when he saw a gun inside the victim's vehicle. Sims allegedly took $3,850 from the victim's car.

Prosecutors said on Nov. 8, 2020, Sims executed a traffic stop on Paige Avenue and took $1,300 he found in the trunk of the vehicle.

Prosecutors said Sims later executed a traffic stop on the same victim and removed $781 and suspected marijuana edibles from the vehicle.

In court, the driver of that car expressed frustration with what he described as years of inaction cleaning up crooked cops in East Cleveland.

"Nobody was taking any action," said Jonathan Whitlow. "This has been going on in East Cleveland for over 20 years."

Whitlow told Judge Tim McGinty that Sims could have been a leader in the neighborhood but instead became a thief.

Whitlow doubted he'd ever be repaid.

"I don't care about this man going to jail because I want my money," said Whitlow. That's all I want is my paper. This isn't going to solve anything. It's not going to solve anything because guess what? Right now, as we speak, there's another cop committing police brutality whether you're black or white and guess what? He's going to get a slap on the wrist. He's going to go there, get sent up there with Curly Sue, braiding hair; that's what's going on with him."

In another incident, both Sims and East Cleveland officer Alfonzo Cole executed a traffic stop on a 21-year-old at a gas station near Euclid Avenue and Superior Road, where they allegedly took $4,000 from the victim's vehicle.

The victim reported the theft to the police department, and the department contacted the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department.

While his attorneys said Sims was sorry and took accountability for his actions, in a brief statement, the 32-year-old never mentioned his victims or the community that prosecutors said he betrayed.

"I'd like to say sorry to my family and my friends for the position I'm in right now," said Sims. "I just want to move forward."

Last month, Sims pleaded guilty to four counts of robbery and one count of theft in office.

At sentencing, McGinty criticized what he called the "ridiculously low" pay East Cleveland Police receive but told Sims it didn't justify robbery.

"This is robbery, robbery by a police officer," said McGinty. "This is turning it all around. It's putting things upside down. That's not supposed to happen."

Watch our report on Cole's sentencing earlier this week:

Ex-East Cleveland officer sentenced to 30 months in prison for robbing drivers

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