After bodycam story goes national, Mosby offers SAO's account; public defender responds

A day after bodycam footage that appears to show a Baltimore Police officer planting drugs made national news, Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby called a press conference to offer her office's account of how this went unnoticed until days before the case was set to go to trial.

The timeline tracks with the statement the SAO released yesterday: A man was indicted on drug charges on February 21. The first appearance in court occurred March 31. On April 17, evidence was handed over in discovery, including the 10 body camera videos, ranging from 34 minutes to a couple hours, provided by the BPD. The assistant state's attorney offered a plea deal for the one heroin pill found on the man by officers on July 6. Almost a week later, about 11 p.m. on July 12, the man's attorney at the Office of the Public Defender flagged the video that showed an officer putting a bag of drugs into a can, walking out to the street, and then coming back to "discover it."

Following protocol, the prosecutor ran it up to the chain to their supervisor, and they decided to drop all charges. The SAO then alerted internal affairs at the police department, and they started reviewing cases involving the three officers seen in the video, who were identified by the Office of the Public Defender as Richard Pinheiro, Jamal Brunson, and Hovhannes Simonyan.

Mosby said they've so far identified 100 cases and are reviewing them.

The obvious question that remained unanswered: How did this get missed for so long?

Mosby said that everyone—the BPD, the public defender, and the SAO—had the videos for three months and they all missed it. But once the the portion where the officer placed the baggy in a soup can was seen, her office acted accordingly, she said.

"I think the protocols that are in place are sufficient," she said.

Reporters asked about the one case where Pinheiro was called to the stand, before the video was mad public. Deputy State's Attorney Janice Bledsoe said that, according to the supervisor of the District Court, Pinheiro was asked about the video on the stand and denied planting the drugs.

Some, including Commissioner Kevin Davis, yesterday suggested that Pinheiro was maybe re-enacting a discovery, which Davis noted is also a problem.

Sandra Goldthorpe, who's in charge of evidence review for the SAO, was asked if she had ever seen a body camera video showing an officer re-enacting something at a crime scene.

"This is actually the first time this situation has come up," she said.

In a statement sent out this afternoon, the Office of the Public Defender argues the SAO is not acting swiftly enough on the 100 cases involving the officers.

"The State's Attorney has a well-established constitutional obligation to disclose information that challenges the credibility of its officers. The Constitution does not build in any exception for delay," said Debbie Katz Levi, head of the Baltimore Public Defender’s special litigation section. "Once the State's Attorney's Office was aware of the video, the prosecution needed to swiftly disclose it in all other open cases, which Mosby acknowledges are about 100. At a minimum, they should have immediately informed defense counsel, considered releasing defendants, and requested a postponement in every case involving these officers."

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