Still via footage from the Office of the Public Defender

The Baltimore police officer whose body camera video from a January drug arrest set off a firestorm last week reportedly testified in another case that he never placed any drugs at the scene.

According to a transcript of a recording obtained by Fox45’s Joy Lepola from that other case involving Officer Richard Pinheiro, the police officer denied what seems apparent from the video. Last week, five days after prosecutors learned of the controversial footage from the January drug arrest in Southwest Baltimore, Pinheiro took the stand to answer questions from a public defender about a different case in which he was an arresting officer.

Attempting to call his credibility into question by referencing the body cam footage, the attorney asked him, “Do you recall in the case…where your body-worn camera showed you placing drugs into a trash can and then later charging Mr. Jones [the defendant whose charges were later dropped] with placing those drugs into the trash can?”

His response: “I never placed drugs in the trash can. The evidence was located in the trash can.”

(The footage actually appears to show Pinheiro putting a bag of drugs into an empty soup can while two other officers stand nearby, but who’s counting?)

The judge reportedly found the defendant not guilty after Pinheiro testified.

Pinheiro has been suspended from his post as a result of the discovery of the body cam video, and two of his fellow officers were placed on administrative leave amid an internal investigation. During the fallout from the arrest last week, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby told reporters that her office had identified roughly 100 other cases involving Pinheiro and the other two officers that would need to be reviewed.

Mosby said her prosecutors had missed the video evidence while reviewing body cam footage for the drug case, and that the scene with the soup can “was something that wasn’t immediately visible or apparent to the assistant state’s attorney.” She said her office submitted the body cam footage as evidence from discovery to the arrestee’s public defender on April 17, about three months after he was charged.

Police Commissioner Kevin Davis suggested at a press conference that Pinheiro may not have been planting the drugs — an action the Office of the Public Defender asserted was clear from the video — but rather trying to reenact an earlier discovery of the bag, though he noted doing so would still violate department policy. But when questioned about it on the stand, Pinheiro didn’t mention any reenactment, instead denying that he placed the drugs there.

The footage from January shows him – at first without audio – ambling back to the spot where he appeared to put the drugs in the soup can, shuffling some trash around for a few seconds, then shouting, “Yo!” to the other two officers, notifying them he’d “discovered” the bag.

Prosecutors dropped the case against his arrestee on July 13, one day after Mosby said her team learned about the video.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...