Officer ruled guilty of misconduct

Police panel faults handling of evidence

January 14, 2000|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County police administrative trial board decided yesterday that a 32-year-old patrol officer committed misconduct in throwing out potential evidence in a murder investigation.

The three-member panel made its recommendations for punishment of Officer Patrick Donnelly in private and declined to disclose them, saying that part of the case was a closed personnel issue.

The board's recommendations will go to the police chief, who will have 30 days to decide on the punishment, which could range from a fine to dismissal.

Donnelly, a three-year veteran in the Southern District, was sent to Sonex Research in Annapolis on July 1 to collect what police believed were fragments of a bullet that had come through the business' bay doors. Sonex manager William McCowan reported finding the fragments the day after a fatal shoting at Club Hollywood, across Hudson Street from Sonex.

According to testimony, Donnelly threw the fragments out of his patrol car window later that day instead of reporting the incident to investigators and never filed a report.

Keyo Williams, a 25-year-old Annapolis man, was killed in the shooting early on the morning of June 30, police said. At least five shots were fired in the crowded parking lot that night, and investigators initially thought Williams had been killed by a shotgun blast. They later learned that a bullet from a handgun had inflicted the fatal wound, according to testimony.

Donnelly sat expressionless before the trial board as its chairman, Lt. Mark Morgan, read its findings of guilty to 18 of 20 administrative charges, including mishandling of evidence and failure to file a report.

"All [Donnelly] had to do was treat the scene as if it may have been related" to the homicide, said Sgt. Jeffery Collins, an internal affairs investigator who acted as prosecutor in the two-day hearing.

"That was his duty, and that's what he failed to do," Collins said in closing arguments.

Defense attorney George Lantzas argued that the department had piled on charges against his client that didn't apply.

"Don't make him the scapegoat for following information provided by the lead investigator," Lantzas said.

If he mishandled an investigation of "malicious destruction" at the business across from the shooting scene, "don't impose on him the responsibility of a homicide investigator," he said.

Statements given to an internal affairs investigator said Donnelly kept the fragments all morning, then threw the fragments out the window of his patrol car that afternoon as he drove along Harry S. Truman Parkway, Collins said.

Investigators discovered the next day that Donnelly had discarded the fragments. They sent a search team to the area, but the fragments were never recovered.

Lantzas said he was disappointed in the outcome of the hearing, in part because the board allowed Collins to introduce evidence after he rested his case.

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