A 20-year-old black man who accused a white Baltimore County police officer of beating him during an arrest last year in Woodlawn was convicted Wednesday of battery on an officer, resisting arrest and destruction of property.
The case was cited last year by black leaders in Catonsville, who called it part of a pattern of police beatings and harassment of black men. None of the community leaders was at the trial.
Catonsville District Court Judge John C. Coolahan fined Malcolm Graham Underwood Jr. of the 2000 block of Woodlawn Drive $280 plus court costs. The judge gave Underwood a one-year suspended jail term on the battery charge and ordered him to pay $213.35 to Baltimore County for repairs to a police cruiser.
He brushed aside testimony from Underwood and his friends that police kicked and pummeled him as he was being arrested. Instead, the judge lectured the men about "a very dangerous incident that could have resulted in a death."
Judge Coolahan noted that although the officers involved in arresting Underwood did not pull their guns, others rushing to their aid did, and any misunderstood motions could have led to tragedy. "Aren't there enough young black men dying in the streets?" he asked.
Underwood cried twice after being found guilty. "I was found guilty for something I didn't do. If I had fought back, I would be 6 feet under the jail," he said after the hearing.
Underwood testified that he and several co-workers were leaving the Wendy's restaurant on Security Boulevard at Whitehead Road in midafternoon on April 12 after getting their paychecks. They were walking toward a bus stop when they noticed "two white gentlemen" in a parked blue car staring at them.
Underwood and his friends said they stared back and one of the men rolled down the car window as they passed and made a profane, challenging remark. Eric Marlow, 22, said he replied in kind and began arguing with the men.
Underwood joined in, then Mr. Marlow went back into Wendy's to get another friend. A car containing several more of Underwood's friends pulled in, blocking the blue car, police said.
As the two men in the blue car tried to drive away, they ran over a piece of Underwood's clothing that had been on the ground.
Underwood admitted he kicked the rear bumper and cursed at the men. He said they stopped, got out of the car and tackled him.
The men in the blue car -- Detectives Thomas Lau and John Koslosky -- testified that they are undercover officers who were on a narcotics stakeout that afternoon. The officers said they were watching Underwood and his friends because they thought they might be lookouts for a drug dealer.
The officers said Underwood and Mr. Marlow cursed and threatened them. When the other car pulled in and blocked their exit, they became worried and called for backup.
They said Underwood "flailed his arms" and resisted attempts to handcuff him, receiving several facial cuts during the struggle. Underwood said he was kicked repeatedly in the ribs and back and had blood in his urine for several days.