Ex-officer guilty of theft, not robbery

Jury clears Martin of a felony in case involving immigrant

`We wanted more evidence'

He is convicted of misdemeanor, misconduct in office

November 09, 1999|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

In a decision described as a blow to Baltimore's Latino community, a jury cleared a former police officer of felony robbery charges yesterday for taking money from an immigrant -- but convicted the officer on lesser charges of misdemeanor theft and misconduct in office.

"Justice has not been done," said Felix Guevara, a native of El Salvador who said the officer, Dorian J. Martin, stole more than $300 from him. "That officer is now free. [He] can hurt me."

After the verdicts in Baltimore Circuit Court, Martin said, "I didn't take anything from anyone with the intention of stealing or keeping anything permanently. It was an error in judgment."

The charges could mean up to 18 months in jail, according to Warren A. Brown, Martin's attorney. Sentencing has been scheduled for Nov. 30.

The decision occurs nearly a year after Martin and Guevara met in December on Gough Street. Martin admits he took cash from Guevara but says it happened in a fit of anger after Guevara taunted him with it. Guevara, however, said the officer stole the money from his pocket.

Martin resigned from the Police Department hours after Guevara made the allegations. Weeks later, Martin pleaded guilty to the felony charges and received a three-year suspended sentence, three years of probation and home detention. When a judge's ruling later nullified that plea, Martin pleaded not guilty.

Martin also has been accused in the cases of two other Latino immigrants who claim he took cash from them, but no criminal charges have been filed in those cases because evidence is still being gathered, according to Angelo Solera, vice chairman of the Mayor's Committee on Hispanic Affairs.

The jury knew nothing of the other cases nor of Martin's previous plea. Solera said such omissions tipped the scale in Martin's favor.

"Certainly there were things withheld from the jury," he said. "That was very damaging."

Loud deliberations

Jurors deliberated for about two hours, and heated, high-volume conversations could be heard in the halls outside the jury room.

Afterward, they said that although it was clear Martin took Guevara's money, the prosecution failed to clarify how much had been taken or whether he intended to rob the immigrant.

"The robbery charge was exhausting," said juror Brian Meadows.

Added juror Mike Anair, "It was tense. We wanted more evidence."

Assistant State's Attorney Elizabeth Ritter offered little comment after the verdicts. "Justice was served," she said.

Officer weeps

Martin showed little emotion during the trial, which started Thursday. But he wept yesterday during closing arguments as his attorney read letters from Baltimore police supervisors and colleagues commending him.

After the verdicts were read, he smiled, hugged family members and held their hands.

Miguel Rivera, Guevara's friend and a community activist who initially helped him relate his account to police, said, "I feel so bad, believe me. This is not justice. I wanted to see that guy go to jail today."

Solera said the case led to unprecedented organizing and protests by the city's Latinos -- and this, he said, represents a victory for Baltimore's often overlooked Latino community.

"Through this whole thing, we won," Solera said. "You win victories battle by battle. This has never been done before. If he gets one day in jail, that's a victory for us."

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