A retired Baltimore Police sergeant pleaded guilty Friday afternoon in a 2014 case in which a toy gun was planted on a man chased by police to justify an officer running him down with his vehicle.
Keith Gladstone, 52, who has been free on pretrial supervision since being charged in March, entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to violate civil rights during a brief hearing in U.S. District Court.
He faces up to 10 years at sentencing in September.
Gladstone’s indictment was an offshoot of the continuing investigation into police corruption allegations related to the Gun Trace Task Force scandal, in which eight city officers were convicted of racketeering offenses for robbing people using their badge.
“Prosecuting criminals who work in police agencies is essential both to protect our communities and to support the many honorable officers whose reputations they unfairly tarnish,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur.
Gladstone, who was accompanied by his wife and two children, spoke only to answer the judge’s questions.
“I do agree, I am guilty,” he told U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake.
Attorney David Irwin told reporters that Gladstone gave two decades of “honest, fantastic service to the citizens of Baltimore.”
“He made some serious mistakes in judgment and it’s been really eating at him for a while, and he wanted to get this over with and he wanted to take responsibility and pay his debt to the citizens of Baltimore City,” Irwin said.
But Irwin declined to comment on other allegations that of been made against Gladstone by some citizens, including that he took money or conducted illegal searches. “He’s taken full responsibility for what he pled guilty to today,” Irwin said.
Gladstone has been described as a mentor and frequent collaborator with former Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, who went on to lead the gun unit and is serving 25 years in federal prison.
At the Gun Trace Task Force trial, a cooperating officer testified that Jenkins advised his officers to carry toy guns to plant on people in case they got into a situation where they would need to justify their actions.
Prosecutors say that’s what happened in March 2014 when Jenkins pursued a man named Demetric Simon, who jumped out of his vehicle and fled. Jenkins ran the man down with his car, saying that he saw a gun in his hand, and a BB gun was located under a nearby vehicle.
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In the indictment, prosecutors said that Gladstone was having a meal when he received a frantic call from Jenkins. Gladstone asked two officers he was with — who are unnamed in the indictment — if they had BB guns with them, and eventually retrieved one from his vehicle’s trunk, the indictment alleged.
On Friday, prosecutors adjusted the account of the incident — in Gladstone’s plea agreement, it says that Gladstone retrieved the BB gun not from his own vehicle but from another, undisclosed officer’s home. No one else has been charged in connection with the incident.
Police at the time put the newly created Force Investigation Team in charge of investigating Jenkins for running into Simon. Nowhere in the 500-page investigative file reviewed by The Baltimore Sun does Gladstone’s name appear.
Gladstone retired from the department in 2012, then returned to the department a year later and retired again just weeks after the Gun Trace Task Force indictments in 2017.
The federal indictment further alleged that in January 2018, Gladstone asked to meet one of the officers he was with the night of the gun planting incident. He wanted to talk in a pool at a YMCA, to ensure he was not being recorded, the indictment said, and told the officer that he was concerned about possible exposure for the gun planting incident. He told the officer that if questioned to tell authorities that they were at the scene to provide perimeter security.
Gladstone also is being sued for his alleged involvement in a 2010 incident in which Jenkins admitted that drugs were planted on a man named Umar Burley, who fled from Jenkins and other officers and got into a crash that killed an 87-year-old man in Northwest Baltimore.
Gladstone won at least two awards from the department, including in 2014 for tackling a suspect who allegedly fired a shot while holding up a business in Northwest Baltimore.