Baltimore Police body camera footage from Detective Daniel Hersl's body camera, showing officers attempting to let suspect Albert Brown go in exchange for information. (Baltimore Sun video)
Fallout from last week's indictment of seven Baltimore police officers continued Monday as the state's attorney's office dropped charges in another case they brought and the police commissioner demoted a high-ranking commander who led their elite gun unit.
Albert Brown, 42, was arrested in August by Detectives Daniel Hersl, Marcus Taylor, and Jemell Rayam, and Sgt. Wayne Jenkins and was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, drug possession and related counts.
Brown's defense attorney Ivan Bates said the officers unlawfully arrested Brown and searched his car, and he provided police body camera footage that he says shows his client's civil rights being violated.
Prosecutors, however, said their decision to drop Brown's case was based solely on the officers' involvement, and said they investigated the man's claims and "found nothing to substantiate" them.
The officers served in a high-profile gun unit tasked with getting weapons off the streets. Since their indictment last week on racketeering charges, prosecutors say they have been forced to drop several cases the officers brought.
The officers are accused of shaking down citizens, filing false court paperwork and making fraudulent overtime claims, all while Justice Department investigators were scrutinizing the department for what they concluded were widespread civil rights violations.
The officers have pleaded not guilty, and are being detained in federal custody pending trial. Their attorneys could not be reached Monday for comment.
Also Monday, Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis demoted a high-ranking commander, Chief Sean Miller, who has overseen the operational investigations division that includes the gun unit. With the reassignment, he now holds the civil service rank of lieutenant.
Last week, Mayor Catherine E. Pugh also ordered an audit of police overtime pay, following allegations that the officers received fraudulent overtime.
Bates provided The Baltimore Sun withpolice body camera footage that begins after Brown, a former Safe Streets anti-violence worker, was detained at a gas station off Reisterstown Road for an alleged seat belt violation. The officers say in the footage they found drugs and a gun in the vehicle.
According to the statement of probable cause written by the officers, Brown was stopped for not wearing a seat belt. When Jenkins asked Brown if there was anything illegal inside the van, Brown allegedly responded, "No, go ahead and check, Officer. I'm just in a hurry to pick up my daughter."
Next, Jenkins and Rayam "took Albert Brown up on his offer," according to the police statement, and found one clear bag with suspected cocaine and one .38-caliber revolver inside Brown's van.
The footage comes from Hersl's body camera, and it shows officers offering to let Brown go in exchange for information. Brown rebuffs the request, and the officers can be seen removing a gun and bag of cocaine from an overhead compartment in the vehicle.
The video also shows officers driving Brown to a West Baltimore home. In the patrol car, Brown can be heard saying, "So you're just going to search my home without no warrant?"
Bates alleges that the officers planted the evidence and said there was an independent witness who saw the interaction.
According to a videorecording from a hearing earlier this year in the case viewed by The Sun, Assistant State's Attorney Brian Pritchard argued that any potential warrantless search of the home did not have anything to do with his case: A gun that the officers recovered was found in the car and not inside the home.
Bates said during that hearing that the officers' actions have "everything to do with that … 'cause they lie about everything."
Bates said the officers can be heard on camera saying they have footage from a surveillance camera at the gas station. But Bates said the state did not provide any footage during discovery.
Defense attorneys have alleged since the officers' indictment that prosecutors and police failed to act on problems with some of the officers that arose during prior cases.
Baltimore police spokesperson T.J. Smith said the officers' failure to film the entire encounter with Brown was a violation of police policy. The error was noted during a routine audit of body camera compliance.
"An internal investigation was launched and disciplinary action was initiated," Smith said of the camera violation.
Smith added that "while these officers are accused of completely jeopardizing the public's trust and tarnishing the image of the Baltimore Police Department, we have no information related to this case that any evidence was planted. This will be an ongoing review as we move forward."
Hersl's court-appointed attorney asked Monday for a new detention hearing, where he will argue that Hersl should be released on home monitoring. He said Hersl has "been a Baltimore police officer for 20 years, arresting hundreds of lawbreakers over his outstanding career."
"The government's claims against Mr. Hersl are just that — allegations," attorney Peter L. Goldman wrote. "Mr. Hersl enjoys the presumption of innocence under our Constitution."
Brown, meanwhile, said the arrest "ruined my life."
"I lost almost everything. I was trying to buy a house. I lost wages, couldn't take care of my family after this happened," he said.
Brown said he was suspended from working at Safe Streets' Park Heights division after the charges.
He said he's now just trying to pull is life back together. "That's my main thing — take care of my family again," he said.
Safe Streets is a Baltimore Health Department program in which released felons or ex-gang members serve as outreach workers to intervene in situations that could lead to violence. However, it has faced corruption accusations.
Last month, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives alleged another Safe Streets worker was leading a drug trafficking organization implicated in several shootings.
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