Annapolis police have completed an internal investigation into the source of videos shared on social media in October 2020 showing two people being questioned by detectives about a 2017 murder case.
Annapolis Police Chief Ed Jackson said Tuesday that internal affairs investigators were unable to pinpoint how the videos were uploaded to Facebook and Instagram or by whom, but the investigation did confirm no one from the department accessed the videos or sent them outside of the agency.
“There’s no evidence to suggest we leaked it out. In fact, we know we didn’t leak it out,” Jackson said. “I have no reason to believe that there was any misconduct on behalf of anybody in APD.”
The videos, which were poor quality and hard to hear, circulated on social media in October 2020. The exposure created concern about the safety of the people revealed in the videos and risked eroding relationships with Annapolis residents who already have trust issues with the department. The videos show police questioning two people in interview rooms at the Annapolis Police Department on Taylor Avenue. The two men are asked about the homicides of George Forrester, a 40-year-old Severn man killed on Newtowne Drive in January 2017 and Charles Carroll Jr., a 25-year-old Baltimore man killed in the Bywater Mutual Homes community in July 2016.
Annapolis police did not announce when the internal investigation closed or release details about how it was conducted. Jackson asked the FBI to review the department’s investigation to ensure it was done properly. The FBI did not do an independent investigation and had no records related to the incident, the agency said in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
The Annapolis Police Department denied a Maryland Public Information Act request for a summary report of the completed investigation in August and December, stating the records are exempt from disclosure and its release is contrary to the public interest because it “would jeopardize the safety of witnesses and/or increase the possibility of witness intimidation.”
In an interview, Jackson agreed that a summary report of the investigation into how the two men’s identities were compromised could risk their safety, and details of the report could give insight into an active murder investigation. Carroll Jr.’s homicide case is still open.
Forrester’s homicide case was closed by arrest, and a judge sentenced Lawrence Montague, of Annapolis, to 50 years in prison in 2017 for second-degree murder. Montague, 32, appealed his case to the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, over the state’s use of his jailhouse rap lyrics as evidence against him. The Court of Appeals ruled in December 2020 that Montague’s lyrics included specific details relevant to the crime that served as “direct proof” of his involvement, setting a statewide precedent for the admission of rap lyrics.
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Jackson offered more details Tuesday into the roughly four-month internal investigation. Police interrogations videos are digitally tracked, Jackson said, because they are subject to discovery in court and eventually accessible by prosecutors and defense counsel. The digital evidence management system documents the time and user ID used to open and copy files. No one from the department accessed the videos that ended up online, he added.
In the video shared on social media, a person appears to have used a phone to film a screen playing the original recorded interview. A person points a finger at the screen in the video uploaded to Facebook and Instagram, showing that the person used two devices, Jackson said.
“We don’t have a suspect in mind. We can’t determine how it got uploaded and whose responsible for that,” Jackson said. “But we determined it didn’t come from [headquarters].”
Although the person who posted the video online hasn’t been identified, Jackson and Deputy Chief Stanley Brandford believe the purpose was to intimidate a homicide witness or discourage people from talking to the police. The internal affairs investigation did not find enough evidence to charge a suspect with witness intimidation.
Witness intimidation charges and convictions are rare. The Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney’s Office did not charge or convict a single person with intimidating or influencing a witness in 2021, according to the office. A month after the Annapolis police interviews popped up online, Instagram removed four Baltimore-based accounts in November 2020 that were posting pictures and paperwork that showed people speaking to police. The accounts were openly intimidating people for cooperating with investigators and sometimes extorting money from the pictured subjects.
Jackson said the Annapolis department is satisfied with its internal investigation and has observed no issues with digital witness intimidation in 2021. He remains concerned, however, the incident could dissuade people from cooperating confidentially with investigators.
“It was important to try our very best to get to the bottom of it because I wanted the public to know and have the confidence that if they ever have to give us information it will be protected,” Jackson said. “And we haven’t had any problems since then.”