Mosby: Video of Officer Placing Drugs in Can ‘Wasn’t Immediately Visible’ During Initial Review

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Still via YouTube/Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said today that the now-infamous body cam footage of a city police officer placing a bag of drugs inside a soup can and then “finding” it wasn’t immediately noticeable when prosecutors were reviewing the footage early on.

“We looked at the videos when we first received them,” she said at a press conference, referring to all 10 available body cam videos from the January arrest. “This was something that wasn’t immediately visible or apparent to the assistant state’s attorney.”

She nevertheless defended her team’s reaction to the revelation of the footage, which appears to show Officer Richard Pinheiro placing the soup can with the bag of pills – suspected heroin, police revealed – into a dirty backyard in an alley, walking past two of his fellow officers, then going back and relocating it. Pinheiro’s questionable evidence-handling was captured on his own body camera, which records the first 30 seconds without audio before an officer activates it.

Mosby offered a timeline of the case’s path today: Evidence from discovery – including the body cam footage – was sent to the defendant’s attorney on April 17; her office presented a plea deal to the defendant on July 6, offering him jail time on a single drug possession charge for one pill of heroin found on his person; on July 12, the defendant’s attorney informed prosecutors of the controversial video; seeing the case damaged, prosecutors dropped the case altogether the next day.

Janice Bledsoe, Mosby’s deputy state’s attorney of criminal intelligence, added that her department notified the police Internal Affairs Division about the footage on Monday.

The Office of the Public Defender initially disseminated the footage of Pinheiro and his two fellow officers. Public defenders were outraged the man arrested had been held for months on $50,000 bail that he couldn’t’ afford to pay.

In a statement Wednesday, Debbie Katz Levi, head of the officer’s Special Litigation Section, said “such footage is meaningless if prosecutors continue to rely on these officers, especially if they do so without disclosing their bad acts.”

At a press conference, police showed reporters additional body camera footage indicating the three officers had other evidence from an alleged drug buy they had witnessed, including an additional bag of pills that they seized, which gave them cause to arrest the defendant.

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said it remained unclear whether Pinheiro had planted the second bag of drugs, or if he was attempting to possibly reenact the discovery of the bag just to capture it on his body camera. He acknowledged that in either case, it was against department policy. One officer has been suspended, while two others were placed on administrative leave, police reveled.

“At the end of it all…I will call balls and strikes,” Davis said. “And if people need to be held accountable, they will be held accountable.”

The video has generated tremendous fallout for other cases involving the depicted trio of officers. Mosby said today that her team has identified “close to 100 cases” involving them.

Unfortunately, before they had sifted through all of those cases, one of the officers had already testified and been cross-examined about his involvement in the arrest involving the body cam footage, Mosby said.

that Mosby’s office failed to fulfill a “well-established constitutional obligation to disclose information that challenges the credibility” of police officers by not expediently spotting the controversial footage and notifying the defendant’s lawyer. “The Constitution does not build in any exception for delay,” she said.

“The State’s Attorney has a well-established constitutional obligation to disclose information that challenges the credibility of its officers,”Levi said in a statement Thursday after Mosby took the podium. “The Constitution does not build in any exception for delay.”

She continued, “At a minimum, they should have immediately informed defense counsel, considered releasing defendants, and requested a postponement in every case involving these officers.”

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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