Prosecutor complained in 2014 that indicted Baltimore gun task force supervisor was not truthful

A Baltimore prosecutor complained in 2014 that Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, the now indicted supervisor of the Gun Trace Task Force, was among a group of officers who had not been truthful in a case involving allegations of evidence planting, the public defender’s office alleged in a new court filing.

The specifics of the internal complaint against Jenkins are not outlined, but it dates to three years before federal authorities charged Jenkins and seven other members of the unit with accusations that they robbed citizens, falsified paperwork to cover their tracks and earned fraudulent overtime.

Last week, Jenkins was charged with additional allegations that he planted drugs on a man in 2010 following a deadly high-speed crash.

Assistant public defender Deborah Katz Levi wrote that the internal affairs file includes allegations that “Wayne Jenkins and other officers gave sworn testimony or recorded statements about an arrest and a seizure that conflicted with CCTV video evidence.”

The complaint was investigated by both prosecutors and police and led to dropped charges against the person who was arrested, she wrote in a filing related to a 2016 murder case to which Jenkins responded.

The outcome of the internal affairs case involving Jenkins was not disclosed in her motion, and Jenkins’ attorney declined to comment.

The filing is the latest allegation from defense attorneys that the Baltimore state’s attorney’s office has withheld crucial information about complaints against police officers that they believe should be turned over to impeach their credibility. Levi alleged that the internal affairs file on Jenkins was initially withheld.

“The absence of this file in response to the court’s order demonstrates that the current Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office is incapable of properly performing its duties as it relates to disclosing” internal affairs files, Levi wrote in a motion that was filed Monday and obtained through the court clerk’s office on Tuesday.

Levi declined to comment on the case.

Prosecutors have pushed back against the idea that they have withheld information on problem officers, saying they have sought to go above and beyond court requirements for disclosing such complaints.

Jenkins was not the primary target of the complaint in the case cited by Levi, they said in a Nov. 30 filing, and they disclosed it after the issue was raised. Such files are disclosed regularly in cases involving officers who were the primary target, they said.

“The Baltimore State’s Attorneys Office, under this administration has expanded the criteria for disclosure of internal affairs files and been the most progressive and transparent administration in terms of discovery,” spokeswoman Melba Saunders said in a statement. She said prosecutors had “complied in good faith with all of the court’s orders.”

Police internal affairs files are guarded closely in Maryland. Defense attorneys in criminal cases often request access to an officer's file and can view the contents under a court order requiring them to keep it secret. They can ask judges to allow certain cases to be brought up at trial to attack the officer's credibility. Such maneuvers can help the public learn about otherwise secret police discipline.

Jenkins was arrested in March along with six other members of the Gun Trace Task Force, an elite unit that had been given wide authority by the Police Department to hunt for guns across the city and even the region. Jenkins joined the unit in 2016 as the supervisor.

He has not entered a plea to the charges he faces, but he is scheduled for a trial in January.

New charges of evidence planting were filed against him last Thursday, two weeks after the killing of Detective Sean Suiter, who was killed one day before he was scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the additional claims against Jenkins.

In that case, prosecutors said Jenkins set up Suiter to find heroin Jenkins had planted in the vehicle of a man named Umar Burley, who pleaded guilty and received 15 years in prison. Federal prosecutors released Burley from prison this summer and have asked the court to vacate his conviction, as well as the conviction of a second man who was convicted and served about four years in prison.

While city prosecutors have been dropping cases involving the Gun Trace Task Force officers, including reversing some convictions, they are proceeding with cases they have deemed to still be viable due to other corroborating evidence.

The public defender’s office argued last week that all cases involving the officers are “irreparably tainted.”

But prosecutors have rejected the idea that they should have been aware of previous concerns raised about the officers.

“Absolutely not,” State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said in March after the officers were arrested.

"Time and time again, this particular task force was heralded for the number of guns they were able to take off the streets,” Mosby said. "We, like everyone else, follow the legal protocols necessary when we proceed on cases."

Levi, who was appointed this year to head a new unit in the public defender’s office scrutinizing police misconduct, has been lobbying the court to allow access to police misconduct files.

The flap over Jenkins’ prior complaint comes in the attempted murder case of Charles Smith, 51, who is accused of shooting a man on Wilkens Avenue in July 2016.

Four of the indicted officers — Evodio Hendrix, Maurice Ward, Marcus Taylor and Jenkins — responded first and arrested Smith. Hendrix wrote the statement of charges against Smith.

Hendrix and Ward have pleaded guilty to racketeering and are awaiting sentencing.

At a court hearing in September, Levi sought to have the Gun Trace Task Force officers’ internal affairs files disclosed. Prosecutors and police resisted, saying they were not planning to call the indicted officers as witnesses and therefore did not have to disclose information about their past misconduct allegations.

“These officers simply have nothing to add to the state’s case,” prosecutor Christoph Amberger said then.

In October, a judge ordered the state to turn over 16 internal affairs files related to officers who arrested Smith.

Within those 16 internal affairs files, Levi wrote, there were multiple references to a 2014 complaint number that had not been produced.

On Dec. 1, the state disclosed the file. Those records showed that the complaint was investigated by the prosecutors’ office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, Levi said.

“The file alleges that Wayne Jenkins and other officers gave sworn testimony or recorded statements about an arrest and a seizure that conflicted with CCTV video evidence,” wrote Levi , adding: “The genesis of the … file is a complaint by a former Baltimore City State’s Attorney, reporting that Officer Jenkins and his subordinates were not truthful.”

Another case that was not turned over related to a failure to appear in court complaint, which prosecutors say is not the type of case that must be disclosed.

Earlier this year, 20 defense attorneys joined together to seek access to internal affairs records of a Baltimore police sergeant, Joseph Donato. Filings in a civil case against Donato showed that numerous complaints against him had been sustained by internal affairs investigators, including alleged beatings and false arrests. Judge Marcus Shar ruled that attorneys could use six of the complaints to question Donato about his credibility.

jfenton@baltsun.com

twitter.com/justin_fenton

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
37°