A suspended Baltimore police officer pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree assault Friday and agreed to a 10-year prison term, with all but 18 months suspended, for firing his service weapon at two men as they drove away from a Canton bar last year.
Patrick A. Dotson, 28, is scheduled for sentencing Sept. 30. As part of the plea deal, Dotson will spend only 18 months in prison, though he could be forced to serve the full 10 years if he violates probation after he's released.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams also promised to increase the sentence to 15 years if Dotson, who is free on $500,000 bail, is late turning himself in.
According to court records, Dotson was off duty in the early morning hours of March 9, 2009, when he and other officers got into a fight with bar patrons at Fins on the Square in the 2900 block of O'Donnell St. The brawl spilled onto the street, was broken up, then resumed a block away.
Dotson battled with Dustin Jackson, who later got into a car with a buddy and drove off. When Dotson saw them pass, he "produced a handgun and fired," said Assistant State's Attorney David Grzechowiak. The car was struck near its gas tank.
Dotson's attorney, Warren Brown, said his client was aiming at the car and not its passengers. But Williams refused to accept the plea deal if the statement were added to the record as fact, so Brown dropped it.
Dotson was originally charged with two counts of attempted murder, assault and handgun violations, though he pleaded guilty only to the assaults. The other charges will likely be dropped. The felony assault convictions mean his career as an officer is likely over.
Dotson has been suspended without pay since March of last year, when investigators determined he was involved in the incident, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. Another officer, Fontaine Smallwood, who was with Dotson when the incident occurred, was also suspended, though he has since returned to duty. Smallwood was not criminally charged.
Dotson had been on the Baltimore force for two years when the incident happened; he was assigned to a special task force targeting drugs in the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor.
His conviction comes on the heels of Baltimore Officer Gahiji Tshamba's indictment this month on murder and handgun charges connected to the off-duty killing of an unarmed man outside a Mount Vernon nightclub. Another Baltimore officer, Tommy Sanders III, was acquitted of manslaughter last month in the 2008 shooting death of an unarmed man who ran from him to evade arrest.
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