Officer testifies that accused policeman used racial epithet against suspect at precinct

September 25, 1996|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

William R. Goodman, a Baltimore County police officer accused of a hate crime, used a racial epithet while placing a man suspected of dealing drugs under arrest last year, a fellow officer testified as the trial opened yesterday.

But Goodman's attorney offered another version of events at the Essex precinct July 29, 1995, calling the alleged victim "the worst liar of all."

Goodman, 35, also is accused of battery and misconduct in office as a result of the incident. Authorities say he kicked and pummeled Melvin Maddox, 25, calling him a racial epithet while trying to take his fingerprints. The racial hate crime charge carries a maximum three-year prison sentence.

Deputy State's Attorney Sue A. Schenning told the county Circuit Court jury that Maddox, who had been convicted of drug distribution, was picked up at an Essex apartment complex because a warrant had been issued on another drug charge. He was taken in handcuffs to the precinct by Officer David Swinney.

Police put leg irons on Maddox and tried to take his fingerprints to confirm his identity, because he was using an alias. When Maddox resisted the fingerprinting, Goodman took over, according to Schenning.

She said he slammed Maddox's head against a pad of ink on the counter, causing a smear of ink to color his face. Maddox later fell to the floor, and Goodman "began to hit him, to verbally assault him, and then use the vile racial epithets" while Maddox begged him to stop, Schenning said.

Schenning told the jury that Goodman, who has been suspended with pay, later dragged Maddox down a hallway by the shackles on his ankles. When police took Maddox to the hospital, blood appeared in his urine and waste, indicating possible kidney damage, she said.

Henry L. Belsky, Goodman's attorney, offered a different account.

He said in his opening statement that Maddox, whom he described as "the worst liar of all," has about nine aliases, was drunk that night and faked injuries while trying to avoid arrest and possible return to jail.

"He knows the gig is up so he does the next best thing: Pretend you're ill. It's called 'the fake,' " Belsky said, noting that Maddox could have been injured at a bar earlier that night.

He acknowledged that Goodman's language was filled with curses, but said the officer did not use any racial epithet. He offered the jury this explanation of the cursing: "Those are the words an officer uses to get somebody's attention, not for a bad reason, but a good reason: to show them they are dominant over them."

Swinney, clearly halting and reluctant to testify, said he was walking through a hallway when he heard parts of the alleged attack and the racial epithet.

He told the jury that when a suspect resists being fingerprinted, normal procedure calls for officers to put the suspect in a holding cell until he agrees to be fingerprinted.

When Belsky cross-examined him, Swinney acknowledged that his testimony differed from the account he gave during an internal investigation by the Police Department. In the internal report, an investigating officer asked Swinney if he heard Goodman yell the racial epithet to Maddox, and Swinney answered no.

"So you lied to the [investigating] officer?"

"Yes, sir" Swinney said.

The trial is expected to end tomorrow.

Pub Date: 9/25/96

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