Mistrial in case of city officer accused of recording judge

A jury declared Tuesday that it was hopelessly deadlocked over the case of a Baltimore police officer accused of secretly tape-recording a judge.

The impasse triggered a mistrial that leaves the sergeant's fate uncertain.

Sgt. Carlos M. Vila, an 18-year-veteran police officer, was charged with recording a telephone argument with a judge designated to sign search warrants after normal business hours. Prosecutors said the recording violated the state's wiretap laws.

Vila wanted District Judge Joan B. Gordon to sign a warrant on a Saturday night to search a car in which a shooting victim had been found. Gordon thought the matter was not urgent and could wait until business hours on Monday, according to the recording, which was played in court this week.

Catherine Flynn, Vila's attorney, said the sergeant has been suspended without pay from his job since he was charged last year.

"The jurors definitely were methodical in reviewing the evidence, we appreciate that," she said. "But certainly, given his status of being suspended without pay, we were hoping for a resolution."

Mark Cheshire, a spokesman for the state's attorney's office, said prosecutors would meet on Wednesday to determine their next step.

Vila's defense was that he attempted to only record his side of the conversation to protect himself later, and recorded the judge by mistake. He also is accused of replaying the recording to colleagues a month later, but Vila maintains that was accidental and that he did not believe he did anything wrong.

Judges are required to be on call after normal business hours to sign off on search warrants about one week out of the year, a job for which they take turns.

In this case, the judge wanted to speak with Vila's supervisor before signing off on the warrant. Vila told her that his lieutenant was off that day and not on call.



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