By Peter Hermann
7:46 AM EDT, April 26, 2012
The head of Baltimore's police union, Robert Cherry, launched a heartfelt defense of Det. Daniel T. Nicholson IV, who is suspended and accused of conducting an authorized raid while searching for his missing 15-year-old daughter:
"I think what Detective Nicholson did is no different than what any concerned parened would do. He went out to find his missing daughter and make sure she was safe. In the end, I think the facts will prove that he did not abuse his position or his power. He did what every American, what every parent should do, keep their kids safe."
But here's the problem. Defense attorneys pounce on any indiscretion to clear their clients before a jury, and Nicholson led one of the city's highest profile missing persons cases -- the disappearance of Phylicia Barnes, a North Carolina teen visiting her sister in Baltimore.
The search for her at one time involved half the homicide squad, and Nicholson remained as lead detective on a six-member task force that grew to include the Maryland State Police when Barnes' body was found in the Susquehanna River.
Wednesday night, police moved in with a warrant and arrested the former boyfriend of Barnes' older sister, the last person to see the victim alive, apparently sleeping on a couch in a Northwest Baltimore apartment.
Michael Johnson had been a suspect for a while, but his surprise arrest came hours after news of Nicholson's allegedly unauthorized raids in the hunt for his own daughter. And Johnson's defense attorney, Russel N. Neverdon, said the quick action by the cops was no coincidence.
The attorney, speaking just moments after his client had been arrested, said investigators moved on Johnson to "because they don't want to ruin the credibility of the case" in the wake of Nicholson's problems.
Defense attorneys could try and call Nicholson's credibility into question, arguing that he used the same questionable tactics while investigating the Barnes case that did to find his own daughter.
But to Cherry, a former homicide detective, Nicholson's actions "shows now only how good a cop he is, but how important his family is to him. The same effort and energy he put into locating Phylicia Barnes, you can see him doing the same for his daughter. That's the kind of cop we want to patrol the streets of Baltimore."
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