[Hpn] Earlier Threats Can Impact Police Dog Re-Trial

coh coh@sfo.com
Wed, 04 Jul 2001 16:55:57 -0700


Earlier Threats Can Impact Police Dog Trial

By Ruben Castaneda
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 3, 2001; 6:13 PM

A federal judge ruled today that prosecutors can use earlier incidents of
brutality or threats to release her police dog as evidence when a Prince
George's county police officer is retried later this month on charges she
set a police dog on an unarmed, unresisting homeless man.

During a hearing in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, U.S. District Judge
Deborah K. Chasanow granted the request of federal prosecutors to permit
testimony about a July 1998 incident in which Officer Stephanie C. Mohr
threatened to release her police dog to bite a homeowner cooperating with
police, who were looking for a fugitive.

The judge also ruled that prosecutors can introduce evidence regarding an
August 1997 incident in which Mohr's police dog attacked a 15-year-old boy
who was sleeping in a hammock. The teenager alleged in a civil lawsuit that
Mohr allowed the police dog to bite him after he was handcuffed, and that
Mohr hit him with a flashlight as the dog was initially biting him.

The incident occurred while Mohr and another officer where looking for a
burglary suspect. The teenager, who was not charged with any crime, filed a
civil lawsuit, which county attorneys settled for $2,500.

In another victory for prosecutors, Chasanow denied a motion by defense
attorneys for county police Mohr and Sgt. Anthony Delozier to delay for six
to eight weeks the retrial, scheduled to begin July 31.

William C. Brennan, attorney for Delozier, told Chasanow that defense
attorneys needed additional time to investigate the two incidents the judge
is allowing into evidence. Brennan also cited a series of articles by The
Washington Post reporting that county police frequently shoot unarmed people
and routinely rule such shootings justified.

Chasanow noted that the series made only a brief mention of an FBI
investigation into the county police canine squad and did not mention the
case involving Mohr and Delozier.

On March 14, a federal jury acquitted Mohr of conspiracy but deadlocked on a
charge of deprivation of rights under color of law. The jury acquitted
Delozier of deprivation of rights under color of law and deadlocked on the
conspiracy charge.

The jury was unable to reach a verdict regarding a former Takoma Park police
detective who was charged with covering up the attack. In April, Chasanow
dismissed the charge against the former Takoma Park detective.

Prosecutors allege that on Sept. 21, 1995, Ricardo G. Mendez, a Mexican
immigrant, and Jorge Herrera-Cruz, a Salvadoran immigrant, were sleeping
atop a Takoma Park printing shop when they followed police orders to come
down with their hands up.

On the ground, Delozier asked a Takoma Park police sergeant for permission
to let Mohr's dog "get a bite," at which point Mohr released her dog even
though the men had their hands up, prosecutors allege. Mendez was severely
bitten in his left calf.

Juan Carlos Cue Vega, an official with the Mexican Embassy, and a staff
member sat in on yesterday's hearing. Cue Vega said he planned on monitoring
the upcoming retrial. "This is a very important case for us," Cue Vega said.

The second incident that Chasanow ruled prosecutors could use against Mohr
in the re-trial involved alleged threats by Mohr in July 1998.

According to court papers filed by prosecutors, as other officers looked for
a fugitive, a woman who lived in the home being searched asked Mohr to move
her barking police dog away from her. Mohr refused to move her dog, then
threatened that if the suspect was in the house, she would turn her dog
loose to bite not only the suspect but also the woman, according to the
court papers.

The woman, who was not identified in court papers, is a government worker
with no criminal record who has relatives who are police officers in the
Washington area, according to court records.

 2001 The Washington Post Company

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