City officer says he did nothing wrong

Lt. John Mack denies allegations that he worked at strip club

Faces 50 misconduct charges

He says he didn't hear orders to remain at scene during raid

October 09, 2001|By Jason Song | Jason Song,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore police lieutenant facing more than 50 departmental misconduct charges took the stand in his own defense at a hearing yesterday and denied working at an underground strip club - an allegation at the heart of the case against him.

Lt. John M. Mack, a 17-year veteran assigned to the Northwestern District, told a three-member police trial board that the sole reason he was at Ronnie's West Side Gallery, in the 2100 block of W. Lanvale St., in the early hours of April 1 was to pick up a friend, a woman he acknowledged yesterday was a stripper.

Mack was discovered during a raid by agents of the state comptroller's office and city police who suspected alcohol was being sold illegally. During the raid, they found about 25 strippers and about 50 patrons.

Earlier during the hearing, which began Oct. 2, a witness said she bought an alcoholic drink from Mack, who she said was tending bar. Under departmental rules, off-duty officers are not allowed to work at such establishments.

Some law enforcement witnesses testified earlier that Mack was 10 to 20 feet from his loaded, 9 mm department-issued handgun, which was discovered behind the bar, and that he walked away from the club though he had been ordered to stay.

Yesterday, Mack testified that he could have easily reached his gun that night and that he never heard a direct order to stay at the scene. "I used my common sense," Mack said yesterday, the fourth day of testimony in the hearing, at police headquarters on East Fayette Street.

Although Mack had been scheduled to work from 6 p.m. March 31 to 2 a.m. April 1, he said yesterday that he had received permission to take that shift off because he had injured his knee during the winter and had found people to cover the shift for him.

After he was suspended from the force and ordered to desk duty, Mack acknowledged that he called a detective to change the official work log to show that he was not scheduled to work from March 31 to April 1.

Sean R. Malone, the Police Department's chief legal counsel, said he had "never seen such a clear-cut case of tampering with evidence." But Mack testified that changing schedules is a common practice in the department.

Instead of trying to mislead investigators, Mack said he never thought the work logs would become evidence and was merely trying to set the record straight.

Mack went on to say that he never worked at the club and was there to pick up a friend nicknamed "Spice." Mack's lawyer, Michael E. Davey, said that Monica Barnette, a stripper who testified last week that she bought a drink from Mack, had been drinking throughout the night.

Mack also said he never saw illegal activities in the club, although law enforcement witnesses said they believed prostitution was taking place there.

Mack said he placed his handgun within easy reach behind the bar because he did not have a holster and the gun was slipping out of his pants. He was worried that the crowd might become unruly and could try and "overwhelm" him if they saw the gun, he said.

Although several law enforcement officials said that they had ordered Mack to stay at the bar after the raid, Mack said he never heard a direct order to remain at the scene and left.

Mack acknowledged that he did not have his badge at the time of the raid, a violation.

The case is expected to be decided within the next several days.

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