City officer found guilty of assault

November 29, 1991|By Brian Sullam

A Baltimore police officer has been convicted of assault and misconduct in office for severely beating the face of a woman who refused to open her hand after she had been detained.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Roger N. Brown said he found Stewart Thrasher, an eight-year veteran of the police force, guilty on Wednesday because "he had used an unreasonable amount of force considering the circumstances." Thrasher will be sentenced Jan. 6.

Sharon Hensley, the 30-year-old victim, said she was happy with the verdict, because she thought that as a policeman, Thrasher would never have to answer for the beating she received the morning of Feb. 13. "I just figured he would get away with it," she said.

Steven N. Leitess, an independent prosecutor who handled the case, said it is always difficult to prosecute a police officer.

"Prosecutors are ordinarily aligned with the police against the criminal elements," he said. "Fellow officers, who are not always aware of all the facts in the case, close ranks around the accused officer. This was a difficult case because none of the police wanted to cooperate."

Thrasher, who waived his right to a jury trial and chose to be tried by Judge Brown, had no comment. His attorney, Henry L. Belsky, said he would not talk about the case until after sentencing.

Thrasher, who had been a patrol officer in the Southeast District, has been assigned to administrative duties and faces departmental charges of misconduct.

About 4 a.m. that day, Officer Eugene Cabral Jr. was on routine patrol and spotted Ms. Hensley driving slowly down Ann Street. Her car stopped as she approached the corner of Ann and Gough streets, where a man was standing.

Officer Cabral testified that he called for another unit, turned off the lights in his patrol car, circled the block and saw Ms. Hensley pass money to the man. He said there appeared to be a drug sale.

Thrasher, who also was on patrol, arrived about the time Officer Cabral left his car to detain Ms. Hensley. Thrasher handcuffed the man and walked over to Officer Cabral, who was holding Ms. Hensley's hand. Ms. Hensley had her fist tightly clenched and refused to open it. She allegedly said she wanted to be searched by a female officer.

According to testimony at the trial, Thrasher told her: "We are going to search you or I am going to bust your face."

PD Ms. Hensley still faces drug possession charges in the incident.

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