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Baltimore Police sergeant charged with assault now indicted on 32 more counts; ‘pattern of harassment’ alleged

Baltimore Police release the body camera footage of a second officer in Sgt. Ethan Newberg arrest of a bystander.

A veteran Baltimore Police sergeant criminally charged with forcibly arresting a bystander without justification in May has now been indicted on 32 additional counts of false imprisonment, assault and misconduct in office based on a “pattern and practice of harassment and intimidation” that prosecutors identified by viewing past body-camera footage, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced Thursday.

The indictment, handed down by a grand jury, alleges that Sgt. Ethan Newberg, 49, “did knowingly, intentionally, and unlawfully harass, detain and assault citizens who were engaged in lawful conduct for the improper purposes of dominating, intimidating and instilling fear" in them between July 2018 and May of this year.

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Newberg ignored his training as a police officer and the policies of the department, according to the indictment, and repeatedly “stopped, accosted, intimidated, harassed and threatened” people without probable cause in at least nine separate incidents.

“Several of Newberg’s unlawful detentions and assaults occurred as a direct result of citizens sitting or standing idly nearby [as] Newberg was conducting other police business, causing no disturbance nor creating any threat to Newberg or his colleagues; several occurred as citizens openly, from a distance, called into question what Newberg was doing to or with another citizen; others occurred when citizens attempted to video record what Newberg was doing to or with another citizen," the indictment states.

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It then outlines the nine incidents, including a statement by Newberg that prosecutors said showed his intimidation and harassment in practice.

“Have you seen me out here before? Ask around,” Newberg allegedly said at one point. “... I’m the sergeant they talk about, now you’ve met me. ... When I’m conducting police business, just mind your business.”

Mosby said at a press conference that Newberg turned himself in to authorities Thursday.

Joseph Murtha, Newberg’s attorney, said Newberg — who worked as a supervisor in the Southwest District — was being held without bail Thursday night ahead of a bail review hearing Friday morning, which was unnecessary considering Newberg’s long service and his cooperation in the case from June.

"I’m actually terribly disturbed that a 24-year veteran who has made himself available to every aspect of this process has been arrested and is currently being held without bail,” Murtha said. “We will move forward just as we were planning to move forward with the existing case, and hope to vindicate the very dedicated work of Sgt. Newberg — who has the support of the community.”

The indictment repeatedly alleges that Newberg gave reasons for detentions or arrests — that bystanders were “inciting a crowd” or putting “officer safety in jeopardy” — when there was no evidence to support the claims, and ample evidence to refute them.

In all, Newberg is charged with 11 counts of second-degree assault, 11 counts of false imprisonment, and 10 counts of misconduct — one of which alleges a “common scheme” of misconduct.

Mosby said the charges, which stem from a months-long review of Newberg’s body-camera footage, showed her office applies “one standard of justice for all,” regardless of position.

“If you break the law and you break the trust that has been given to you by the public, you will face the consequences, whether you wear a badge or not,” Mosby said. She said most police officers in Baltimore are “trustworthy and hardworking,” but actions like those alleged in the indictment are “unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announces additional indictments against a Baltimore Police sergeant.
Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announces additional indictments against a Baltimore Police sergeant.(Kevin Rector)

The superceding indictment follows Newberg’s arrest in June on assault, false imprisonment and misconduct charges related to his arrest in May of Lee Dotson, a 28-year-old Northwest Baltimore man.

Newberg had alleged that Dotson was “interfering” with his arrest of another man, but his body-camera footage, later released by the police department, showed a different story. In it, Newberg can be seen running at and grabbing Dotson as Dotson was calmly walking away from the scene while criticizing officers’ decision to place the other man being arrested on wet pavement.

“From what I saw, the man did nothing to provoke Sgt. Newberg, whose actions were not just wrong but deeply disturbing,” Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said in announcing that case against Newberg, alongside Mosby.

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Harrison called the incident an example of the “horrible culture” within the police department, and said Newberg was “tarnishing the badge that we all wear.”

The police union denounced Harrison for what it called a rush to judgment in the June case. On Thursday, Sgt. Michael Mancuso, president of the local police union, could not be reached for comment.

Newberg was the second-highest-paid city employee in fiscal year 2018, after making $243,000 largely through overtime.

Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe, who oversees police integrity investigations and helped oversee the review of Newberg’s body-camera footage, said the state’s attorney’s office normally only receives body-camera footage related to arrests, but after Newberg’s arrest in June had requested and received from police all of his body-camera footage.

She said similar body-camera footage reviews could be conducted in future police misconduct cases “if the conduct warrants it.” She said Mosby’s office would not be releasing the footage of the nine incidents outlined in the indictment because “it is part of the evidence and it will be shown possibly at trial.”

Bledsoe said prosecutors have not reached the point of determining whether a broader review of all of Newberg’s past arrests will be undertaken. Mosby’s office has conducted similar reviews of cases brought by other officers accused of misconduct, including members of the now notorious Gun Trace Task Force.

The indictment of Newberg is the second in as many weeks out of Mosby’s office to arise out of broad reviews of video footage and other evidence after prosecutors were confronted with more isolated examples of alleged misconduct on the part of law enforcement officials, and the second to hinge on a finding that a pattern of broader, intentional intimidation existed.

On Dec. 3, Mosby announced the indictment of 25 Maryland state corrections officers and personnel who she alleged used excessive force, intimidation, evidence tampering and other criminal measures to ensure their special tactical unit maintained “dominance of its operational territory.”

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