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Baltimore police detective found guilty of assault

A Baltimore jury found a city police detective guilty of assaulting a man whom he put in a choke hold and punched earlier this year at a Charles Village restaurant.

Detective Daniel Nicholson was convicted last week of second-degree assault and reckless endangerment — both misdemeanors — after hitting an employee at Maxie's Pizza Bar & Grille on May 2. A sentencing date has not been set, but Nicholson has been suspended with pay, a department spokesman said Friday.

“Now that the court case is over, Internal Affairs has resumed their investigation,” spokesman Matt Jablow wrote in an email.

Nicholson approached the victim while he was at work and slapped him across the face “without saying nothing,” according to charging documents. Nicholson then punched the man in the face and put him in a choke hold. The assault was caught on video, the court documents state.

The victim said that he had gotten into a fight with a woman earlier in the day who told him that she could “get someone for me.” Nicholson came to the restaurant and assaulted him about 30 minutes later, the charging documents state.

Nicholson pleaded not guilty to both charges, but a jury determined Dec. 13 that he had assaulted and endangered the man.

The assault charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $2,500 fine. The second charge is punishable by up to five years along with a $5,000 penalty. The Afro first reported the conviction.

The officer’s lawyer did not respond Friday to a request for comment.

Nicholson previously faced assault charges stemming from an alleged 2012 incident, but those charges were later dismissed. The homicide detective was accused of using his badge while off-duty to force his way into homes and search for his daughter who had run away. He allegedly forced his way into a Northeast Baltimore apartment and pushed two people.

A jury acquitted Nicholson of one count of second-degree assault and one count of fourth-degree burglary in 2014. Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby dropped the remaining second-degree assault charge the next year. He also was suspended with pay at that time.

Nicholson, who has been with the department for more than two decades, previously served as lead detective in the high-profile Phylicia Barnes murder case. The 16-year-old girl from North Carolina went missing in Baltimore in 2010, setting off a massive search and garnering national attention. Her nude body was found four months later, floating in the Susquehanna River.

Nicholson’s guilty verdict is just the latest stain on an embattled department that faced numerous public embarrassments this year. The police agency has been plagued with leadership turnover, multiple cases of officer misconduct and witnessed one of the biggest corruption scandals in Baltimore history: the convictions of members of the once-elite Gun Trace Task Force. Against this backdrop, the city once again passed the 300-homicide mark — for the fourth year in a row.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jessica Anderson contributed to this article.

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