2 officers allege defamation as result of warrant request

May 06, 2006|By JULIE BYKOWICZ | JULIE BYKOWICZ,SUN REPORTER

Two Baltimore police officers implicated in misconduct in a search warrant application targeting the Southwestern District's "flex squad" filed a lawsuit yesterday accusing the officers who wrote the document of defamation.

Sgt. Robert Smith and Detective Vicki Mengel are asking for $1.5 million. They contend in their suit that two drug detectives made "false statements ... for the malicious purpose of embarrassing [them] and causing them to be subject to public ridicule, scorn, dishonor and embarrassment and to ruin their careers."

The lawsuit also discloses for the first time that Smith was working for the Police Department's internal affairs unit to investigate the flex squad. He was supervisor of the squad but was also secretly working for internal affairs when allegations of rape, drug possession and misconduct emerged in late December and early January.

"They have Sgt. Smith sign an affidavit saying he'll be the eyes and ears of internal affairs to investigate the flex squad, and the next thing he knows he's the target of an investigation," said Clarke F. Ahlers, a lawyer who is representing Smith and Mengel. "It's insane. It's a case of the left hand of the Police Department not knowing what the right hand is doing."

The lawsuit names Detective Sgt. Scott Danielczyk and Detective John P. Jendrek as defendants. Those two wrote an application for a search warrant of the Southwestern station house in the days after a woman said she had been raped there.

In their application, which they swore under oath was true, the detectives wrote that "there is sufficient probable cause to believe that Sergeant Robert Smith, Police Officer Vicki Mengel [and the other five members of the squad] are violating the [drug] laws of the State of Maryland" and are using the station house to "facilitate their illegal activity."

The application also states that Danielczyk "has prior knowledge that Officers [Jemini] Jones and Mengel have been implicated in the theft of cellular phones belonging to arrestees."

There had been allegations that Mengel and Jones were "planting ... controlled dangerous substances on citizens in an effort to knowingly make false arrests," the application says.

The application gives no specifics to support the claims.

"The Baltimore Police Department wants the benefit of making false allegations without having to support them with evidence," Ahlers said.

Matt Jablow, police spokesman, has said internal affairs is continuing to investigate the flex squad. But Ahlers said neither of his clients, to his knowledge, has been contacted by investigators.

The drug detectives seized suspected heroin, cocaine, marijuana, seven cell phones and three walkie-talkies from the station house, according to the warrant return.

The lawsuit states that Smith was on Christmas vacation, and Mengel, who had months earlier been removed from the squad when she was charged with illegal gambling, was in Florida when the station house search warrant was executed.

Ahlers said he wants to ask the drug detectives questions under oath to find out why they made the accusatory statements in the warrant application.

"The best disinfectant for the Baltimore Police Department," he said, "is sunlight."

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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