In Courtroom 4 at the Eastside District Court yesterday was an unusual sight: a middle-aged clergyman being tried on charges of making an illegal left turn, hitting a police officer, and resisting arrest.
The Rev. Daniel Nascembeni, 49, pastor of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Carroll County community of Trenton, apparently got into a wrestling match with eight Baltimore police officers over a routine traffic violation April 30.
Officer J. Scott Fullwood said that he was subjected to profanities from the instant he pulled Mr. Nascembeni over; Mrs. Nascembeni said that her husband was assaulted by a rude and abusive police officer. Mr. Nascembeni said he doesn't remember a thing about the fight but dimly remembers waking up in Church Hospital.
District Court Judge Theodore B. Oshrine, who presided over the non-jury trial, heard the wildly divergent stories.
Nobody disputed that the incident took place about 6:40 in the morning at the intersection of North Washington Street and East Fayette Street. Officer Fullwood had parked his car, hoping to nab motorists who ignored the sign prohibiting left turns between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Mr. Nascembeni was his first catch.
After pulling over Mr. Nascembeni, who was driving a Chevrolet Geo with his church's name on its side, Officer Fullwood testified, Mr. Nascembeni jumped out of his car and yelled, "Do you have a f------ problem?"
Officer Fullwood said he had never seen anyone quite so agitated over a traffic citation in his 5 1/2 years on the police force. He said he told Mr. Nascembeni to calm down.
Instead, Mr. Nascembeni told him that he wanted to see his supervisor. Mr. Nascembeni, according to the officer, said that he was from the Vatican and had "diplomatic immunity."
After telling Mr. Nascembeni he was going to get a traffic ticket, Officer Fullwood said, the minister replied that if he got a citation, he was going to "take off." He said he warned the minister that he would be arrested if he did.
The officer said Mr. Nascembeni, who is about 6 feet tall, started to jump up and down and used more profanity, saying, "F---- lock me up then. Lock me the f--- up," and pushing the officer.
Officer Fullwood said that when he tried to arrest Mr. Nascembeni, , he started to resist. Officer Fullwood said he called for backup because the "situation was out of control."
Other officers arrived, and it took about five of them to subdue Mr. Nascembeni. The officers put handcuffs and leg irons on Mr. Nascembeni.
Mr. Nascembeni was treated at Church Hospital for scratches and bruises.
Mr. Nascembeni said he remembered the police officer and the lockup at Southeastern Districtbut could not recall anything about the tussle.
"Time just doesn't seem to be real," he said. "The whole day is just gone."
Mrs. Nascembeni told a different story than the police officer when she testified.
She said that she and her husband had been on their way to a workshop at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Mrs. Nascembeni said she realized her husband had made an illegal turn when she saw the sign under the traffic light.
They saw Officer Fullwood on the street motioning them to pull over. Mrs. Nascembeni said the police officer was "very rude" and had "an angry expression on his face."
Her husband, she said, got out of the car and told the officer that he wanted to speak to his supervisor. She said her husband had been a state trooper and knew that police officers shouldn't behave like that.
Mrs. Nascembeni said that she heard a lot of angry words from behind the car and then saw Officer Fullwood grabbing her husband. She said the officer tightened his grip and started to choke her husband.
According to her testimony, her husband grabbed the officer's hand in an effort to loosen the choke hold, and the officer took out his billy club and hit her husband.
Mrs. Nascembeni said the other officers who arrived pinned her husband to a police car and kicked him in the leg and neck.
After hearing it all, Judge Oshrine said that the evidence was contradictory but that Mr. Nascembeni probably started the confrontation by using harsh words.
The judge also said that he had not heard enough evidence to convince him that Mr. Nascembeni was guilty of resisting arrest and hitting a police officer.
The judge did convict him of making an illegal turn.
Judge Oshrine sentenced Mr. Nascembeni to probation before judgment and ordered him to pay $35 in costs and fines.