Ex-officer who faked report gets a year on electronic monitoring

April 02, 1997|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

A former Baltimore police officer who was suspected of being an "enforcer" for a drug dealer who had been a friend since childhood was sentenced yesterday to a year on electronic monitoring for falsifying a police report to help his friend.

Despite Andre Johnson's assertion that he had been "saved" by religion, Baltimore Circuit Judge Mabel E. H. Hubbard said his crime of misconduct in office deserved punishment. "You knew better," she said. "You promised that you would not consort with known drug dealers."

Hubbard stopped far short of levying the maximum sentence of four years in prison allowed by a plea agreement.

Johnson, 23, was arrested in May, about a month after the body of Courtney Williams -- whom prosecutors described as a drug dealer making $30,000 a week -- was found floating in the Gwynns Falls near Leakin Park.

A few days later, police found Williams' 1995 Nissan Quest van abandoned in the 4500 block of Old Frederick Road in West Baltimore. In the glove compartment they found a police report and statement of charges indicating that Thomas "Archie" Smith, an alleged lieutenant in Williams' business, had been arrested for drug possession.

Johnson later told investigators that neither the sequence number for the report nor the name of the officer was real. In fact, Johnson had been paid $200 by his friend Smith to falsify the documents to make it appear that he had been arrested with the drugs, so that a supplier would think police had confiscated them.

When Johnson entered an Alford plea Feb. 3, in which he did not admit guilt but acknowledged he could be found guilty at trial,Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth A. Ritter told the court that Johnson had admitted to police that he overheard Smith planning Williams' killing with another man, and that he was paged after the killing and told it had been done.

Johnson's attorney, Rosemary Ranier, told the judge yesterday that Johnson lied to the police because "the police were telling him that Thomas Smith said he was a killer."

Rainier said Johnson did not know the killing was going to take place and that he had never been in trouble before.

Hubbard told Johnson that he nevertheless had violated the trust afforded him as a police officer.

Officer Gary McLhinney, president of the Baltimore chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, questioned Johnson's sentence to electronic monitoring rather than prison.

"This type of behavior on the part of a police officer damages the entire profession," he said. "I don't know that this punishment sends a message in terms of future deterrence to individuals who might be considering crossing over the line."

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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