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Former Baltimore police commissioner De Sousa ordered to surrender passport, firearms pending trial

Former Baltimore Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa’s fall from top cop to criminal defendant came into sharp relief Monday, when he agreed in federal court to surrender his passport and any firearms he owns as he awaits trial on the tax charges that led to his recent resignation.

During a brief hearing before Chief Magistrate Judge Beth Gesner in U.S. District Court downtown, De Sousa was formally advised of the three misdemeanor charges against him and agreed to several conditions on his freedom pending trial. He did not object to any conditions, and prosecutors did not object to De Sousa remaining free on the charges.

The hearing revealed nothing material about the tax case or what sparked it, but marked the first public appearance for De Sousa since the unsealing of the charges against him torpedoed his 30-year police career and led Mayor Catherine Pugh to appoint Deputy Commissioner Gary Tuggle as interim commissioner while a national search for De Sousa’s permanent replacement is conducted.

De Sousa is charged with three counts of failing to file federal tax returns in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He faces up to a year in prison and a $25,000 fine for each charge. A trial date has not been set.

De Sousa arrived for the 1 p.m. hearing at the federal courthouse on West Lombard Street in a blue suit and green tie and surrounded by a group of similarly-suited men, including his two attorneys and his brothers. The normally-outgoing former commander was composed — though smiling less than normal — and shook hands with a few security guards as he quietly moved through the courthouse with his entourage.

They arrived just behind federal prosecutors Leo Wise and Derek Hines — who recently secured convictions against eight cops in the Gun Trace Task Force case — and Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur, whose decision to charge the city’s sitting police commissioner came less than two months after he was sworn in to fill the position vacated by now-Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein.

Before an audience of supporters, reporters and legal observers, Gesner asked De Sousa if he understood the charges against him, and he said he did. She ordered him to turn over any firearms in his possession by Wednesday, and his passport by June 7, and told him not to change his address in the city without advising the court.

After De Sousa agreed to the conditions — nodding along as attorney Gerard Martin quietly talked him through them — Gesner asked both sides if they had any other matters to address, and both said they did not.

The hearing lasted less than 10 minutes.

Afterward, De Sousa and another one of his attorneys, Adam Ruther, both declined to comment as they rode an elevator to a higher floor in the building.

Moments later, on the same elevator as it descended, prosecutors Wise and Hines also declined to comment.

The scope of the tax case and the U.S. Attorney’s investigation into De Sousa is not entirely clear. In addition to filing the charges against De Sousa, prosecutors have issued subpoenas to the city finance and police departments seeking additional information about De Sousa’s pay, travel, secondary jobs and internal affairs files from the past decade, according to the subpoenas, which were obtained by The Baltimore Sun through a Public Information Act request.

Two weeks ago, and the same day the tax charges against De Sousa were unsealed, he admitted in a statement on Twitter that he did not file federal or state tax returns for those three years, but said taxes had been withheld from his police salary and that he had filed returns in 2016 and filed for an extension in 2017.

He wrote that his “only explanation” for his past failures to file was that he had “failed to sufficiently prioritize [his] personal affairs,” and that he was working with a professional tax preparer to fix it.

Pugh expressed confidence in him, saying he was handling the “mistake.”

The next day, however, amid some pressure from lawmakers, Pugh suspended De Sousa, and his attorneys at the time — since replaced — issued a statement in which they criticized prosecutors for charging him criminally before giving him a chance to rectify his filing status.

A few days later, Pugh announced that De Sousa had offered his resignation, and that she had accepted it.

Pugh said the city will conduct a national search for De Sousa’s permanent replacement, but her administration has provided no details as to what that search will look like. Tuggle, the interim commissioner, has not said whether he wants the job.

Pugh’s administration also has not provided details on how De Sousa was vetted for the top police position, though City Solicitor Andre Davis has said the process has since been improved.

De Sousa, 53, was head of patrol before being appointed commissioner by Pugh in January, after Pugh fired former Commissioner Kevin Davis amid stubbornly high levels of violence in January.

The City Council confirmed De Sousa’s appointment with no debate in February on a 14-1 vote, with Councilman Ryan Dorsey the lone dissenting vote, after critics and supporters of De Sousa shared their thoughts on the appointment.

krector@baltsun.com

twitter.com/rectorsun

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