Arlo Wagner; The Washington Times
March 13, 2001, Tuesday, Final Edition
Copyright 2001 News World Communications, Inc.
The Washington Times
March 13, 2001, Tuesday, Final Edition
(WASHINGTON) -- An assistant U.S. attorney said yesterday that three police officers tried to use the "blue law" of protecting their own to avoid prosecution for siccing a police dog on two burglary suspects in 1995.
"Outrageous, shameful, illegal," prosecutor Alexander Busansky said in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt at the conclusion of 2 1/2 weeks of testimony. "Who would believe that the person that would do this is a policeman?"
Defense lawyer David Simpson countered by saying the FBI and prosecutors coerced and forced two other police officers to lie and change their stories in order to indict the three officers.
Mr. Simpson represents Cpl. Stephanie Mohr, whose dog bit a suspect about 4:15 a.m. Sept. 21, 1995. He said the three were indicted just one day before the statute of limitations would have prevented prosecution.
On trial are Prince George's County police Cpl. Mohr and Sgt. Anthony Delozier on charges of conspiracy and civil rights violations by use of excessive force, and former Takoma Park police detective Brian Rich on charges of falsifying his reports to protect himself and those officers.
Mr. Busansky said witnesses and evidence proved conclusively that Officer Delozier, then a corporal, asked a Takoma Park officer in charge, "Hey, sarge. New dog. Mind if he takes a bite?"
But Mr. Simpson said that officer, Sgt. Dennis Bonn, did not remember that he answered, "Yeah. Go ahead," until interviews with FBI and prosecutors resulted in his remembering that statement.
And, Mr. Simpson pointed out, Sgt. Bonn was allowed to wait until Nov. 6 to plead guilty to being an accessory, five days after he retired with an $18,000 annual pension and a promise of serving a lenient 21- to 27-month prison term.
Mr. Simpson said U.S. attorneys promised not to prosecute Takoma Park Cpl. Keith Largent for his testimony, adding, "We know Cpl. Largent will lie."
Mr. Busansky contended that after the dog-bite incident, Cpl. Mohr wrote a report, as required. The prosecutor claimed it was a "false statement" to justify use of excessive force when the two suspects had surrendered, there was no threat or suggestion of flight, and six officers with guns surrounded them.
"She needed an excuse for what she had done," Mr. Busansky said. "Her testimony in this case is completely inconsistent with what happened."
Mr. Busansky said Sgt. Delozier denied asking the question about releasing the dog . . . because in his mind, he did something wrong."
He said Mr. Rich "knew when the dog was released that a crime was being committed. . . . Brian Rich filed false and misleading reports . . . to cover up his crime."
"There's a blue line of power," Mr. Busansky said, referring to a code of police protecting one another. "What happened that night was way over the line."
Mr. Simpson said even testimony by the dog-bite victim, Ricardo Mendez , contradicted the prosecution. He testified that he moved his left arm and pivoted just before the dog bit his left calf.
"He gives the government what it doesn't want to hear," Mr. Simpson said, explaining that movement by a suspect, who may have a hidden weapon, is a valid reason for police to shoot or for police dogs to be unleashed.
Most witnesses consistently testified to investigators, the grand jury and the District Court jury that Mendez moved, Mr. Simpson said.
Takoma Park had surveillance that night because of a series of nighttime burglaries. Mendez and Jorge Herrera-Cruz were found on a roof, climbed down and lifted their hands in surrender.
Later, police found evidence to indicate they were only sleeping on the roof. Herrera-Cruz subsequently pleaded guilty to fourth-degree burglary and reportedly returned to El Salvador. Mendez is in prison in Texas. He has been deported twice to Mexico, and has been convicted of possessing cocaine with intent to distribute, unauthorized use of a vehicle and using a false name.