Case dismissed against 2 city officers in assault

May 06, 2006|By GUS G. SENTEMENTES | GUS G. SENTEMENTES,SUN REPORTER

Two Baltimore police officers charged with assaulting a man and two young women outside a Federal Hill pizza shop had their case dismissed yesterday after a judge ruled that prosecutors did not follow the right steps in bringing the case to court.

District Judge James L. Mann Jr. ruled during a hearing yesterday that since the charging documents - handwritten by the accusers - indicated that the officers were on-duty, prosecutors had to follow a series of legal steps before they could allow the charges to be formally filed in District Court.

That would include, the judge said, a specific recommendation by the city's top prosecutor, Patricia C. Jessamy, that charges be filed against the officer.

That did not happen, Mann ruled, and he threw out the case before the man who said he had been assaulted had a chance to tell his story in court.

"Justice was not served today," Akhenaton R. Bonaparte IV said after the hearing in District Court in South Baltimore. "They were drunk. They assaulted me ... and the judge threw this case out on a technicality, when I've done everything in my power to bring this case to light. I'm mad as hell. The judicial system is totally flawed."

Prosecutors said they disagreed with the judge's ruling.

A. Thomas Krehely, chief of the police misconduct division in the state's attorney's office, testified that based on his review of the evidence, which included a six-page internal affairs report, he determined that the officers were "not exercising their official duties" at the time of the alleged assault. Prosecutor Elizabeth Embry also argued that the officers were off-duty during the incident.

Because prosecutors believed the officers were off duty, a specific recommendation from the city's state's attorney was not necessary to file the charges, said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city state's attorney's office, said.

"We do not agree with the decision," Burns said. "We were stunned. Clearly these officers were off-duty. It's a pure technicality."

The officers, Jack H. Odom Jr. and Michael D. Brassell, faced assault charges in a case that took an uncommon path through the city's criminal justice system. Bonaparte filed charges in early November rather than waiting for police or prosecutors to pursue the case.

Bonaparte, an office manager at Morgan State University, said that the two officers, who are white, harassed him and called him racist as he and his two young female friends talked about African-American history inside Maria D's pizza shop on Light Street on Oct. 22.

A fight broke out and Bonaparte, who is black, punched one of the men outside of the shop. He said that the men, who were dressed in plainclothes, never identified themselves as officers, according to court documents. The men handcuffed Bonaparte and more police officers were called in to investigate, the documents show.

David B. Love and Gavin M. Patashnick, attorneys for the officers, declined to comment.

The officers remain suspended with pay and police internal affairs investigators will wait to see if prosecutors pursue the case further before they resume their own investigation, a police spokesman said.

gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

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