Two Baltimore police officers were acquitted last night of second-degree assault charges stemming from an incident in which they were accused of choking a man they suspected of trying to swallow drug evidence.
Judge Thomas J.S. Waxter decided that Officers Anton J. Meisinger, 25, and Raymond A. Morroni, 33, did not use excessive force Oct. 2 during their encounter with Dante Brown, 26.
Waxter also acquitted the officers yesterday of charges of misconduct in office.
The incident occurred about 12:30 p.m. in the 2100 block of Vine St. in West Baltimore, where the officers watched through binoculars what they believed to be a drug transaction between Brown and a woman.
Meisinger, who was represented by lawyer Lisa Hardy, testified yesterday that when he approached Brown he saw him put into his mouth what he believed to be drugs packaged in glass vials and small plastic bags. Then he heard what sounded like glass crunching in Brown's mouth, he testified.
"I grabbed him and he spun around, causing us both to fall to the ground," Meisinger testified. "Once we hit the ground, I lifted my left hand to his jaw and advised him to spit out the drugs."
They found no drugs on Brown.
Brown testified last week that the officers put him in a choke hold and pinched his nose, causing him to lose consciousness.
Brown refused medical treatment on the scene, but later noticed his eyes were bloodshot and went to a doctor. He was diagnosed with a hemorrhage behind his eyes. Brown sustained no apparent long-term injuries.
The prosecutor, Assistant State's Attorney Thomas Krehely, argued in court that the war on drugs has desensitized people to violent behavior by police.