City detective charged with beating teens Top commander's son allegedly assaulted two arrested youths

Union assails indictment

Reported incident occurs after shooting of officer in May

November 22, 1995|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore police detective who is the son of a top department commander was charged yesterday with beating two teen-agers after arresting them in the shooting of a police officer in May.

Det. Nicholas J. Tomlin, 28, a 7-year veteran, turned himself in yesterday morning at the Central District station. A grand jury indicted him Monday night on two misdemeanor counts of common assault. The officer was released and is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 24.

Police and prosecutors refused to release details of the alleged beating yesterday, but a lawyer for one of the teens said his client was handcuffed and beaten on the head with a flashlight.

The president of the police officers union, Officer Gary McLhinney, lashed out at the indictment and said there is "going to be a war in this town" between the state's attorney office and city police officers.

It is the second time in four years that Detective Tomlin has been implicated in a brutality case but the first time he has been criminally charged. He was cleared of departmental charges in a highly-publicized 1991 case of an alleged beating of a 23-year-old softball coach.

Detective Tomlin has been placed on administrative leave with pay. Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier said his police powers were revoked last week "when we were fairly confident that an indictment would be returned."

Mr. Frazier said the case sends a strong message to city residents that the department "has the ability and the will" to police itself.

The accused officer is the son of Col. Leon Tomlin, chief of the neighborhood patrol bureau and considered second in command the department. He is currently on sick leave.

"It doesn't matter who you are," the commissioner said. "If we perceive criminal misconduct, the investigation will proceed in an honest and straight-forward way."

But Officer McLhinney accused State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy of abusing her office by taking misdemeanor charges to a grand jury, instead of simply filing a complain in District Court.

The union already is upset that Mrs. Jessamy recently doubled ** the amount of cocaine it takes to be charged with drug distribution. "It's obvious that Mrs. Jessamy is more willing to prosecute cops then she is other criminals," he said.

"Sooner or later there is going to be a war in this town and its not going to be with the drug dealers," the union president added. "Its going to be between the police officers and the state's attorney's office. Mrs. Jessamy has turned that office into a joke."

Deputy State's Attorney Haven Kodeck said his office has the option in misdemeanor cases to either directly charge in District Court or seek an indictment, and in this case, chose the latter option. The indictment filed in court yesterday simply says that the detective "assaulted Troy Henley by striking him in the face. Later that day, he assaulted Stephen Vaughn when he was arrested."

Both youths, who are 17, were arrested May 23 in separate raids after the May 19 shooting of Det. Aaron J. Stewart, who was wounded in the left ankle when he tried to stop several people from stealing a car.

Detective Tomlin was on the arrest teams that raided the suspects' homes in the 3400 block of Liberty Heights Ave and the 3700 block of Gwynn Oak Ave. The Henley youth's aunt, Sandra Johnson, said her nephew was beaten in a back room of the Liberty Heights Ave. house.

Mr. Henley's lawyer, Todd Hyatt, said he is considering a civil suit against the city. "My client was in custody and beaten by a police officer," Mr. Hyatt said. "He was not offering any type of resistance."

Both youths were charged as adults with assault with intent to murder, but prosecutors dropped the cases against the Henley youth on Oct. 26. because of a lack of evidence. The Vaughn youth pleaded guilty on Nov. 6 and was sentenced to two years in prison.

Henry Belsky, the lawyer representing Detective Tomlin, said prosecutors declined to hand over paperwork in the case, including statements made by witnesses -- including Baltimore County police officers -- and the accused.

"My client was not invited to the grand jury so he could explain his side of the story," Mr. Belsky said. "Based on the information that I have, these charges are fully defenseable. My client is a fine police officer."

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