Assault case ends in Alford pleas

April 23, 2008

A former and current Baltimore police officer received suspended jail sentences yesterday in a case in which a Morgan State University office manager and two young women were assaulted outside a Federal Hill pizza shop in 2005, according to city prosecutors.

The victim, Akhenaton R. Bonaparte IV, has said the two officers, who are white, harassed him and called him a racist as he and his two young female friends talked about African-American history in Maria D's shop on Light Street.

Jack H. Odom, who resigned from the force after the incident, was sentenced to a 10-day suspended jail sentence and a year of probation. He entered an Alford plea, in which he does not admit guilt but concedes the state has enough evidence to convict. A guilty verdict of three counts of second-degree assault were entered.

Officer Michael D. Brassell, who remains suspended, also entered an Alford plea to one count of second-degree assault and was sentenced to a 60-day suspended sentence. Judge Robert Kershaw also ordered that the officer serve a year's probation and attend a course in anger management.

Bonaparte had asked the judge to send Brassell and Odom to jail.

"When a black male cries that `I'm a victim' and I do everything that I'm supposed to do, it's not taken seriously," Bonaparte said in an interview yesterday. "It's taken lightly. In this case, I'm not at fault. The state had an open-and-shut case.

"This is why I'm disgusted," Bonaparte said. "The system has failed the people in the community. The Police Department is suffering from a lack of oversight and a lack of character. Today was a victory, no doubt, and it shows that an average lay citizen can bring charges and follow through it with limited resources and still bring a guilty verdict."

Sterling Clifford, a police spokesman, declined to comment.

Bonaparte said the officers, who were in plainclothes with their badges and guns hidden, interrupted his conversation in the restaurant and that the argument continued outside. He said Brassell and Odom did not identify themselves as police officers.

Bonaparte said one of the officers poked his fingers in his chest and that he punched the man in the face. The two officers then tackled Bonaparte onto the hood of a car. Bonaparte flagged down a passing police officer and filed a complaint.

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