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March 12, 2001
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Ex-cop testifies FBI wanted story altered

Felt pressure to change dog-bite repor

By Arlo Wagner
The Washington Times 

TAKOMA PARK, Md -- A former Takoma Park police detective testified yesterday that assistant U.S. attorneys and FBI agents tried to persuade him to alter his story about a police dog biting a burglary suspect 5 1/2 years ago.

"They called me a liar," testified Brian Rich, now an FBI agent stationed in Newark, N.J. "I could not understand why they were not accepting what I was saying." Agent Rich was referring to a six-hour interview July 31 with two prosecutors and an FBI agent in a New Jersey motel. It was one of several interviews.

Agent Rich said he stuck by his notes and reports throughout the interviews and testimony to the U.S. District Court grand jury.

Testifying in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Agent Rich said, "We did not get along" in all of the interviews, adding that his questioners were "hostile" and the meetings were "very tense."

"I guess I was naive," Agent Rich said. "I was continually told I was a witness," but then was indicted.

A grand jury indicted Agent Rich in August on charges of conspiracy and being an accessory after the fact for writing a report charging two Hispanics with burglary. Subsequent evidence indicated the pair was homeless and only sleeping atop a Takoma Park office building.

Prosecutors contend the report was written falsely to justify the police-dog attack about 4:15 a.m. Sept. 21, 1995. Prince George's County canine officers Stephanie C. Mohr, 30, and Sgt. Anthony Delozier, 39, are on trial on charges of conspiracy and violating civil rights of the two men by allowing an unjustified attack by a police dog.

The interviews invariably focused on two points:

* Agent Rich said he stood by his story that Ricardo G. Mendez, who used five other names, moved his left arm and pivoted just before Officer Mohr's dog, Valk, bit his left calf.

* Whether Agent Rich heard then-Cpl. Delozier ask a commanding officer if the "dog could take a bite."

Mendez, twice deported to Mexico and convicted of possessing crack cocaine, has previously testified that he did indeed move. Other witnesses have given varying accounts about his arm movements and standing against a wall.

Agent Rich admitted that he first told his questioners that he did not hear Sgt. Delozier ask if Valk could bite Mendez. But after reviewing his reports and personal notes from his attic, he agreed with Sgt. Delozier's testimony.

The two said Sgt. Delozier asked the question to determine whether the situation was a "red flag," a potentially dangerous situation when police dogs are allowed to bite and police are allowed to shoot.

They and other witnesses have testified that Mendez and Jorge Herrara-Cruz were burglary suspects at that moment, and police could not tell whether they had weapons in their waistbands under the long shirts the men were wearing.

But Agent Rich agreed with prosecutors that the dog bite was unjustified, and that both he and the officer in charge, Sgt. Dennis Bonn, were bothered about it that night.

Retired Sgt. Bonn testified that he has pleaded guilty to being an accessory and expects to be sentenced to up to 27 months in prison after the trial.

Agent Rich also testified that there were errors in his report. The report, for instance, states that Mendez and Herrara-Cruz were handcuffed before Sgt. Delozier asked, "Hey Sarge, can I get a bite."

Reports are supposed to be chronological and the handcuffing occurred after the bite.

Two FBI agents closed the defense in Agent Rich's case, asserting his reputation for honesty.

"I'd say his character for honesty is above reproach," testified Agent Charles Malos. "He has a maximum reputation for that."

"I believe he is very honest," testified Agent James M. Aherne. "I've found Brian to be a very intelligent, hardworking agent."

After the six-hour interview, Agent Rich sent a computer e-mail to his superior, stating that his questioners "didn't care about the truth." And, Agent Rich asserted he wouldn't jeopardize his career to "protect a cop."

Copyright 2001 News World Communications, Inc.

Full story: Ex-cop testifies FBI wanted story altered

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