A West Baltimore man captured on video attacking a police officer on New Year’s Eve was convicted of second-degree assault last month in a rare bit of swift justice in the city.

Manuel Imel, 40, was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but one year of the term suspended, for tackling an officer who was in the middle of arresting a second man. A recording of the incident was widely viewed online at WorldStarHipHop.com.

It shows two officers trying to handcuff a man in the street as a crowd watches, apparently upset. Then Imel appears, tackling one of the officers and allowing the arrestee to escape. A police spokesman later explained that Imel was initially being questioned by police when the second man intervened and the officers shifted their attention to him. That’s where the video picks up.

The quick guilty plea and sentencing on May 16 — just four and a half months after Imel’s arrest — is unusual for violent felony cases, which frequently take more than a year to prosecute, and likely owing to the videotape evidence.

But the short prison term, which will likely be less than a year of time served, was troubling to some.

“Despite progress in handing down more time for gun crimes, this deal highlights the continuing problem law enforcement has with putting away criminals who belong in jail, and not on the street,” said Robert Cherry, president of the city's Fraternal Order of Police union.

The mayor’s office last week highlighted statistics showing that non-suspended prison terms for felony gun offenders doubled last year to 63 months, compared with 32 months in 2009.

“Part of the problem with primarily focusing on ‘bad guys with guns’ is you allow others to slip through the cracks,” Cherry said. “A thug assaulting a uniformed police officer from behind in broad daylight is most likely a more serious threat on our city streets than any gun-toting dope dealer.”

Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office, said sentencing guidelines recommended a prison term of between six months and three years. Prosecutors asked for a two-year sentence, but the judge selected the final number, Cheshire said.

“Given the guidelines, we’re satisfied, as is the officer in this case,” Cheshire said.

Imel, who has convictions for theft and marijuana possession along with a long arrest record, was also ordered to serve five years probation. If he violates the conditions, he could be sentenced to serve the remaining nine years of his sentence.

The second man, 40-year-old Shershallan Delot Bond-Brooks, was also arrested and charged with second-degree assault, interfering with arrest and obstructing and hindering justice. He was found incompetent to stand trial last month and committed for treatment, according to online court records.

Tricia.bishop@baltsun.com
Twitter.com/triciabishop