Phylicia Barnes detective acquitted of 2 counts

A veteran city police detective was acquitted Thursday of burglary and assault charges stemming from his search for his daughter. A Baltimore jury deadlocked on another assault charge.

Detective Daniel T. Nicholson IV, a 19-year veteran who was the lead detective in the Phylicia Barnes murder case, was accused of forcing his way into a Northeast Baltimore apartment in April 2012, knocking a woman down and pushing a second person to the ground in a frantic search for his runaway daughter.


The allegations became fodder for the defense in the murder trial of Michael Maurice Johnson, who was charged with killing Barnes. Barnes, a teenager from North Carolina, disappeared from her sister's Northwest Baltimore home in 2010. Her body was later found floating in the Susquehanna River.

Johnson's lawyers questioned Nicholson about the search for his daughter in an attempt to undermine the state's case.

The jury acquitted Nicholson on Thursday of one count of second-degree assault and one count of fourth-degree burglary.

The jury could not agree on a second assault charge, which means prosecutors could still pursue that charge. Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the Baltimore state's attorney's office, said prosecutors would "conduct a thorough evaluation to determine our next step."

Nicholson's attorney Matthew Fraling said a gag order prevented him from commenting. The president of the police union said the jury was right to acquit.

"Like any good parent, Detective Nicholson was out looking for his daughter, and despite the state's allegations, he did not break any laws while doing so," Robert F. Cherry said. The union paid Nicholson's legal bills.

The jury in the Barnes case convicted Johnson in March of second-degree murder, but the judge in the case reversed the verdict. He said prosecutors failed to provide defense attorneys with information about a key witness.

The charges against Nicholson were filed after the conclusion of the Johnson trial and more than a year after the alleged incident occurred.

He was accused of forcing his way into the Northeast Baltimore apartment with two others, but no one else has been charged in the case.

Johnson's retrial in the Barnes killing is tentatively scheduled for Feb. 21.