Officer says report omission accidental

City veteran testifies in perjury, misconduct case

December 16, 2003|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Facing criminal charges of perjury and misconduct, a veteran Baltimore City police officer testified yesterday that she accidentally left out crucial details from court documents in which she claimed to have witnessed a man stash drugs and cash in a bush.

The bag contained fake drugs and cash planted at the scene by internal affairs detectives conducting a random integrity sting, which is designed to see whether police officers pocket drugs or money. The trial is scheduled to resume today.

Police Agent Jacqueline A. Folio, 41, took the stand in her own defense in Baltimore Circuit Court on charges of perjury and misconduct in office. She is accused of lying in court documents after responding to a call for reported drug dealing, finding the fake stash, and then arresting an 18-year-old on charges of drug possession.

In her statement of probable cause, Folio wrote that she "observed one of the three [men] described as wearing a dark colored baseball cap, white T-shirt and jean shorts place an object onto the ground behind a bush." She later found the object, which contained the fake drugs and money.

Yesterday, Folio testified that she did not mean to give the impression that she had witnessed the man place the items in the bush. Folio testified she did not see the man stash the items. Instead, she should have written that she had observed a man whom she believed was the same one described over the police radio as having earlier hidden the bag, according to her testimony.

"What happened that day was good faith on my part," testified Folio, a 14-year veteran who once trained officers in defensive police tactics. "It was a run-on sentence. There was clearly never any criminal intent on my part."

On cross examination, prosecutor A. Thomas Krehely Jr. , who called the officer's actions "corrupt and willful," asked Folio why she did not catch her mistakes when she wrote a second report well after filing her initial statement of probable cause.

The two documents contain nearly identical language.

Folio said she had been trained to use nearly identical language in her reports.

The officer's lawyer, Clarke F. Ahlers, argued that the sting - which was videotaped - was flawed from the beginning and that detectives who conducted it played a cruel game with an innocent bystander by allowing him to be falsely arrested.

The sting began when dispatchers - relaying information from internal affairs detectives pretending to be witnesses - radioed Folio that a man wearing a white T-shirt, baseball cap and blue jeans was seen hiding the bag near East Pratt Street and South Ellwood Avenue.

As Folio approached the area, she spotted Leon Burgess walking with two other people nearby, according to testimony yesterday.

Burgess was wearing clothing identical to that described by the dispatcher, and Folio asked colleagues to detain the men while she checked the bushes. She found the bag and drove a short distance to where other officers were holding the three men.

As officers questioned the men and Folio walked around the scene, internal affairs detectives can be heard on a videotape discussing their concern that Folio might arrest Burgess and the others by mistake.

"If they lock them up, we have problems," one officer can be heard saying.

"I think [the other officers'] problems are more serious than ours if they lock them up," another responded.

The internal affairs detectives did not intercede, and Folio told officers to take Burgess to the city jail for processing. He subsequently was released.

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