By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun
6:32 PM EDT, July 20, 2011
Personnel records of Officer Gahiji Tshamba, who was convicted of manslaughter last month for killing a man outside a city bar, may be considered as part of a "pre-sentence investigation" if they show a history of prior problems, a judge said Wednesday.
"I'll be looking for any issues concerning use of a weapon and any issues concerning intoxication," said Baltimore Circuit Judge Edward R.K. Hargadon, who is scheduled to sentence Tshamba in the manslaughter case on Aug. 16.
The officer, a 15-year department veteran, could receive up to 30 years in prison.
Hargadon presided over Tshamba's criminal trial in June, finding that the officer had been drinking before he got into an argument last year with Tyrone Brown, who had groped one of Tshamba's female companions. The officer overreacted, drew his weapon and shot Brown a dozen times out of a misguided sense of self-defense, Hargadon ruled at the time, convicting Tshamba of voluntary manslaughter and a handgun violation.
Tshamba's personnel records were excluded from the trial. But prosecutor Kevin Y.T. Wiggins filed a motion this month asking that they be disclosed for sentencing purposes.
"We believe that there are things in his file that would suggest a pattern of behavior," Wiggins said Wednesday during a hearing on the matter.
He pointed to a year-old Baltimore Sun article that showed Tshamba had been driving drunk in 2005 before firing his weapon at a group of men who allegedly tried to ram the officer's car. A juvenile was struck in the foot in the incident.
Tshamba also shot a robbery suspect in the back in 1998 as the man fled, mistaking his partner's gunfire for the suspect's.
Both shootings were ruled justified by the Baltimore Police Department and the state's attorney's office, Tshamba's attorney said Wednesday.
"There is nothing in Officer Tshamba's past that could be considered outrageously shameful," said defense attorney Adam Sean Cohen "There is no criminal conduct."
Cohen and Neal Janey Jr., a lawyer for the Baltimore Police Department, objected to the review of Tshamba's work records, claiming it was inappropriate, particularly if allegations included in the file were never proved.
Judge Hargadon said he was "certainly capable of dividing [his] mind" to determine which records are relevant and worth sending to pre-sentence investigators, who will evaluate Tshamba's history as part of the sentencing process and submit a confidential report to the court.
Hargadon said he will begin the process by looking at a sealed table that lists all allegations of misconduct against Tshamba, and determining "what's clearly not relevant."
He said he will issue an order outlining which records he plans to send to investigators and that he's open to discussing later what topics can be revealed in public during the sentencing.
Earlier this week, a federal court judge ruled that the city and Police Department can be sued for failing to control Tshamba, based on a description of his personnel records that was contained in a civil suit filed by Tyrone Brown's family.
"Officers involved in multiple instances of police misconduct, especially misconduct involving excessive force allegations, should be subjected to a higher level of scrutiny and supervision," wrote U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett.
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