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Harford deputy pleads guilty to reckless endangerment from 2013 gun incident

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A Harford County Sheriff's Office deputy pleaded guilty Tuesday to reckless endangerment stemming from a 2013 traffic stop altercation during which his service weapon discharged.

Deputy First Class Christopher Behles entered the plea in Harford County Circuit Court, according to a statement from Harford County State's Attorney Joseph Cassilly.

According to the statement, Circuit Judge Stephen Waldron sentenced Behles to a five years in jail but suspended it and placed him on two years probation, one year supervised and one year unsupervised.

Behles, 38, also was fined $2,000 plus $625 in court costs and is required to complete anger management counseling and 500 hours of community service, according to the statement. Reckless endangerment is a misdemeanor.

Behles had also faced charges of first- and second-degree assault, both felonies, under a grand jury indictment returned last July. A jury trial had been scheduled for April 10. Neither assault charge was prosecuted, according to court records.

Behles service time with the Sheriff's Office was not immediately available Tuesday.

Edward Hopkins, spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, said neither the department nor Sheriff Jesse Bane would comment on the plea. Hopkins also said he could not discuss Behles' status with the agency.

Prior to this week, Behles had been working for the Sheriff's Office in an administrative capacity with pay, with his law enforcement powers suspended, Hopkins confirmed.

Cassilly could not be reached for comment Tuesday. The case was prosecuted by Steven Kroll and David Daggett, who Cassilly's statement said were appointed special assistant state's attorney's "to avoid any conflict of interest."

Kroll is executive director of the Maryland State's Attorneys Association and a former prosecutor in Baltimore County, according to the organization's website. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday, nor could Behles' lawyer, Shaun Owens, of Baltimore.

Cassilly originally charged Behles with reckless endangerment in a criminal information filed in District Court on April 29, 2013. At the time, Cassilly said the charge was based on information he received about Behles' gun being discharged during a traffic stop near Norrisville that preceded a chase and the arrest of a Jarrettsville man.

The grand jury indictment with the two assault charges followed on July 2. Cassilly at the time declined to discuss the indictment.

According to charging documents and other police statements, on April 8, 2013, Behles, who was assigned to the Sheriff's Office's Violent Crimes Unit, was off-duty and driving to his home in Harford County in an unmarked police cruiser when he stopped behind a turning vehicle at Route 23 and White Hall Road near Norrisville.

The police car was then hit in the rear by a vehicle driven by a Jarrettsville man, whom police later identified as William Redding Harvey V. The Sheriff's Office said at the time that Behles, who was in street clothes, got out of his vehicle and showed his badge as he approached Harvey's vehicle.

The Sheriff's Office said Harvey allegedly attempted to leave the scene while Behles was standing alongside the driver's side door of Harvey's vehicle. At some point, Behles' service weapon discharged, the Sheriff's Office said. The exact circumstances of how the weapon discharged have never been publicly stated, however, although the Sheriff's Office also has said the deputy may have been dragged or caught up the door when Harvey's Toyota 4Runner drove off.

Police alleged that Harvey fled the scene in his vehicle with Behles in pursuit, joined by other officers from Harford and Baltimore counties. The chase continued onto Route 439 and into Baltimore County, where Harvey lost control of his vehicle, which rolled over.

Harvey then ran until he was tackled and held at gunpoint by Behles until other officers arrived, the Sheriff's Office said. Both men were taken to hospitals and treated for minor injuries.

Harvey was charged with second-degree assault, resisting arrest, failing to obey a lawful order and obstructing and hindering police. His charges were not prosecuted as of Dec. 23, 2013, according to online court records.

Harvey was also issued four traffic citations, three of which have been placed on a special stet docket, according to court records. The fourth is on the inactive docket.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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