Officer accused in robbery blames actions on poor judgment, fear

Closing arguments, jury deliberations begin Monday

November 06, 1999|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

On the second day of his trial, the former Baltimore police officer charged with stealing money from an immigrant testified yesterday that poor judgment and fear of being accused of lying caused a misunderstanding that ultimately led to his resignation and arrest.

"I found that when a black officer was in a situation such as I, a black police officer would not get a fair shake," said Dorian J. Martin, the officer. "I didn't feel that anybody was going to have my back."

The six-year police veteran is charged with felony robbery for allegedly stealing about $300 from a Spanish-speaking immigrant last year in Fells Point. In a separate complaint, two other Latino immigrants have accused Martin of robbing them while on duty.

The charge could lead to a sentence of as many as 10 years, according to Warren A. Brown, Martin's attorney.

Much of the day in Baltimore Circuit Court was devoted to detailing Martin's actions after he stopped Felix Guevara on Dec. 28.

Though Martin initially denied it, he acknowledged in 45 minutes of testimony yesterday that he took cash from Guevara during the incident on Gough Street. But he says it occurred after Guevara angered him by waving the cash in his face.

"He disrespected me," Martin said, addressing the jury during most of his testimony. "In poor judgment, I snatched the money and in one motion, all at once, I put it in my pocket. At that moment, my radio went off."

But he stressed repeatedly that he intended to find Guevara and return the cash.

Martin said he, the only Southeastern District officer driving a police van transporting suspects to Central Booking Intake Center that night, was called to an incident on Pulaski Highway. Soon after leaving Guevara, he realized that he still had the money, Martin said, and tried to find him after performing his police duties.

"I searched from the 1700 block to the 2200 block of Gough Street, on Ann, Duncan and Eastern Avenue," Martin said.

But he acknowledged under questioning from Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth Ritter that about two hours of his time that evening are unaccounted for.

"You were in contact with the station all that time, and you couldn't have gotten on the radio and said, `Hey, I made a mistake. Can I speak to a supervisor?' " Ritter asked.

Said Martin, "You can't just do that. I've seen how officers stab other officers in the back."

After returning to the station at the end of his shift, Martin was called in for questioning by Sgt. Milton Corbett and, eventually, Major George Klein. Both asked if he was carrying cash, and asked to see it.

Martin produced one $100 bill, seven $20 bills and other bills of smaller denominations -- the precise combination of currency that Guevara had described, Klein said.

"And when you saw that $100 bill come out of Dorian Martin's pocket?" Ritter asked Klein.

"I looked at [the sergeant] and asked him for an envelope and he secured it. I told [Martin] at the very least that evening that he would be suspended from duty."

Hours later, after consulting an attorney, Martin resigned from his job.

At day's end, both the prosecution and defense rested. The trial resumes Monday at 9: 30 a.m. with closing arguments and jury deliberations.

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