A Baltimore police officer was ordered to resign from the force and was fined $250 yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court for filing a false statement to county police when he reported his car stolen in May.
Officer Benjamin C. Braxton III, 26, of Championship Court in Owings Mills must resign by May 30 as a condition of receiving probation before judgment, which means he will have no criminal record if he successfully completes 18 months' unsupervised probation.
Assistant State's Attorney Robert A. Brocato had asked for Officer Braxton's immediate resignation from the Baltimore City Police Department, where he's assigned to the Western District. Officer Braxton asked to remain on duty until September.
Judge J. Norris Byrnes ordered that he resign by the end of May.
At his trial in January, Officer Braxton testified that his 1990 Ford Probe -- on which he'd missed several payments -- was stolen from an Owings Mills mall parking lot. Then, he said, he received an anonymous late-night call at his unlisted home number, leading to his recovery of the car in a Prince George's County apartment lot.
An estimated $5,100 in damage included missing wheels, seats and battery, according to trial testimony. A county police officer said superficial marks on the ignition hadn't harmed the car but apparently were intended to look like the work of a thief.
In closing arguments, Mr. Brocato said Officer Braxton himself stole or arranged to have his car stolen and stripped of its wheels, seats, battery and other parts, intending to collect from his insurance company. The officer's father and brother, both Philadelphia police officers, testified as character witnesses for him.
Judge Byrnes found Officer Braxton guilty of filing a false statement to the Baltimore County police about the theft. However, he found Officer Braxton innocent of a more serious charge, making a false claim of motor vehicle theft, because the police officer never followed through on his insurance claim.
Officer Braxton testified that he never sought reimbursement for the damages because he feared his insurance costs would rise, but Mr. Brocato argued that the officer dropped the claim because the insurance company became suspicious about the incident.