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Baltimore County officer pleads guilty in drug case

Balto. Co. officer agrees to resign after pleading guilty in attempted break-in

A Baltimore County police officer agreed Tuesday to resign after pleading guilty to two misdemeanors related to an attempted break-in in Dundalk last year.

Joseph Stanley Harden, 32, was accused in July 2014 of trying to kick in the door of a drug dealer who lived in an apartment on North Boundary Road. Prosecutors alleged he wanted to steal money and drugs.

Harden pleaded guilty to attempted fourth-degree burglary and possession of oxycodone.

Harden, a 10-year veteran who told investigators he was addicted to prescription drugs, initially faced seven charges, including attempted robbery. He asked for a bench trial Tuesday after rejecting a plea offer from the state.

But minutes into the trial, a key state's witness — Sean McKelvin, the man whose residence Harden allegedly tried to enter — became uncooperative on the stand, and Judge Ruth Jakubowski called a lunch break.

Later, the prosecution and defense announced that they had reached a plea agreement. As part of the deal, Harden must resign by April 14, and the state dropped five charges against him, including attempted robbery, a felony.

Harden is scheduled to be sentenced June 29 and faces a maximum sentence of seven years. Assistant State's Attorney Daniel Trimble said the state would seek jail time.

Harden most recently worked at the Parkville precinct, where he was on modified duty because of injuries related to a 2013 shooting, police said last year.

Defense attorney John Grason Turnbull III told Jakubowski that Harden was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the shooting, and that he is seeing a counselor for his drug problem.

Turnbull said after the hearing he would not comment about the case until Harden's sentencing.

According to charging documents, McKelvin called police on July 29, saying someone who claimed to be a police officer had tried to kick in the door of his apartment. McKelvin later told police he was a drug dealer.

That evening, Harden and another man, Stephen Singh Gomez, were stopped by police for speeding. Harden was off duty at the time. According to the charging documents, Gomez had been selling pills to Harden and was a customer of McKelvin's. Gomez told investigators he bought oxycodone from McKelvin for Harden that day, but Harden wanted more pills, so they returned to the apartment.

Gomez faces charges, including attempted robbery and drug-related violations, in the case. His public defender, Matthew Gordon, declined to comment Tuesday. A plea hearing is scheduled for April 16.

McKelvin, who faces various drug charges in the city, was wearing a yellow jail jumpsuit when he took the witness stand. He said he didn't want to testify.

"Listen, man," McKelvin said as Trimble questioned him. "I don't want nothing to do with this."

A public defender listed in online court records for McKelvin's case could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Harden had been suspended without pay since he was charged, police spokesman Cpl. John Wachter said.

Top leaders of the Baltimore County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4 attended the proceedings Tuesday. President Cole Weston said Harden would be able to seek back pay from his suspension because he is no longer charged with a felony. Harden was earning an annual salary of $72,000 at the time of his arrest, according to court records.

In 2013, Harden fatally shot a man, Arnett Myers, 57, in front of the Colony Hotel in White Marsh, according to police. He was one of three officers who struggled with Myers, who police say tried to run over a woman with a motor scooter. Police said Harden shot Myers as Myers tried to rip the gun from another officer's holster. The department and the county state's attorney's office deemed the shooting justified.

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