Police Officer Convicted of Police Brutality Freed After 8 1/2 Years

Claire Gordon, AOL Jobs, February 14, 2012

Stephanie Mohr always wanted to be a police officer. But she was forced to change her plans, after a charge of police brutality sent her to a West Virginia prison for 8½ years. As a newly free woman, Mohr insisted on her innocence in an interview with Washington, D.C., television station WTTG, and hopes to one day buy a home close to her son.

In the early 1990s, Mohr became the first female police officer in the K-9 unit of the Prince George’s County Police Department in Maryland. {snip}

After a string of burglaries in Takoma Park, the police set up surveillance and spotted two men on the roof of a store. Mohr and her partner were called in for backup. They ordered the men to get on the ground and show their hands.

But Mohr claims that one of the men’s body movements suggested that he was about to flee. She said that in following protocol she released her dog, Valk, for a “bite and hold” move, to immobilize the man until he could be handcuffed. The dog, as trained, bit into the man’s calf, tearing his muscle.

The man, Ricardo Mendez, a homeless undocumented immigrant, didn’t file a complaint, and Mohr’s commanders signed off on the report. Mendez was ultimately convicted of selling crack cocaine and was deported to El Salvador. The other suspect, Herrera Cruz, pled guilty and was deported to Mexico.

{snip}

But Mohr’s version of how events played out didn’t match the account of several witnesses. The officer who originally called for assistance, Sgt. Dennis Bonn, claims that the two men cooperated fully, climbing down from the roof with their hands in the air, and were peacefully standing there when the dog was released.

Five years later, and a day before the statute of limitations expired, Mohr was charged with harming Mendez by “acting under color of law to willfully deprive him of his right to be free from the use of unreasonable force,” as well as one charge of conspiracy.

The jury acquitted Mohr on the second charge, but was hung on the first. When she was tried again, she was found guilty, and under then-mandatory sentencing laws, was sentenced to prison for 10 years. {snip}

{snip}

Mohr believes politics had a role in her conviction. The U.S. Department of Justice was looking to prosecute cases in which minorities suffered civil rights abuses, she claims. A white officer, who could be found guilty of police brutality against a Hispanic immigrant, fit the bill.

“The federal government was desperate to make a case against a Prince George’s County Police officer,” Mohr says. “After years and years of investigating, the only person they were able to indict and try was me.”

Although the outcome of the case was a personal tragedy for Mohr, prosecutors argue that justice was served. {snip}

“I did what I was told to do,” Mohr still contends. “I did what I was trained to do. I did what I was expected to do.”

Stephanie Mohr

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  • Anonymous

    What a freakin’ joke.   I WISH THEY WOULD CALL ME FOR JURY DUTY ON A CASE LIKE THIS.  
    I mean, what is wrong with people?  If the perps. were deported, they weren’t even there to testify.  I can’t believe charges were filed on this woman. 

    Here in Detroit, two white cops with spotless records, Walter Budzyn and Larry Nevers  went to prison for killing a life long black criminal and drug addict named Malice Green. 

    Long story short, they pulled green over, Green was high, a struggle, cop says green grabbed his gun, cop hit Green with flashlight until he let go.  Green dies, one autopsy says the blows to the head killed Green.  Another autopsy says Green died of a combination of an enlarged heart, cocaine, alcohol in his system and the intense struggle with the cops killed him. 

    Then mayor, Coleman A. Young went on TV and said it was a murder by cop before the trial even began…and yet they could not get the trial moved out of Detroit. 

    Both white cops did about 8 years in prison.  Both of these cops had spotless records and were both about 57 years old, gray hair and puggy…. and just a few years from retirement when this happened. 

    Green’s illegitimate kids, concubines cousins, and other relatives are still getting checks from the city for a wrongful death lawsuit that was filed. 

    And OJ Simpson and Cassey Athony were found NOT guilty.  Seriously, what is wrong with these idiots on these juries?  

  • Anonymous

    Was the witness also an illegal with a criminal record?

    I don’t care if his hands were up or down, ran or not, he broke into a house and got bit by a police dog….so what.  If I were king of the world, he would have be sterilized, done one year at hard labor fixing the roads, THEN deported.  He got of light in my mind.

    • Anonymous

      First, the two suspects had not broken into a house, but were homeless men were sleeping on the roof of a building.

      Second, the evidence introduced against her included direct testimony from four
      fellow officers who were
      present at the scene who testified that the “fleeing suspect” wasn’t
      fleeing at all,
      and was in fact simply standing facing the officers with his hands in
      the air the entire time. One of the witnesses was Sgt. Dennis Bonn, who
      originally called for assistance.  Bonn claims “that the two men
      cooperated fully, climbing down from the roof
      with their hands in the air, and were peacefully standing there when the
      dog was released.” 

      Bonn testified that Mendez:

      -made no sudden movements-obeyed all law enforcement commands-did not lower his hands-did not attempt to flee in any way

      What about Mohr’s claim that she ordered the dog to attack only after
      one of the men’s body movements suggested that he was about to flee? 
      That still doesn’t cut it. In her testimony in US District Court, Mohr
      admitted that police guildelines call for the use of force (including
      police dogs) only for self defense and defense of others.  Thus Mohr’s
      rationalization – even if true – still doesn’t exonerate her. 

      Third, the canine attack on Mendez was not the only instance involving
      charges that Mohr unlawfully turned her dog on suspects.  She was sued
      four times by other similarly treated, three of which resulted in out of
      court settlements with county attorney agreeing to pay damages to the
      victims.

      According to the eye-witness
      testimony of Mohr’s fellow officers, Mohr asked Sergeant Bonn if the dog
      could “have a bite”, to which the Sergeant replied “yes”. After what
      was described as a “very, very brief exchange”, Mohr released her dog on
      the suspect without warning and for no apparent reason. The dog
      attacked Mendez who, according to Sergeant Bonn’s testimony, “still had
      his hands in the air when . . . the dog bit him in the leg. [He] went
      down screaming and continued to scream.”

      As a result of
      the incident, Sergeant Bonn pled guilty as an accessory-after-the-fact
      to a civil rights violation and testified for the government pursuant to
      a plea agreement. Mohr was found guilty of violating 18 USC §242
      (Depravation of rights under color of law, resulting in bodily injury),
      and sentenced to the maximum penalty allowed of 120 months in federal
      prison. She appealed, but the appellate judges had little sense of humor
      regarding Mohr’s actions and dismissed all points of her appeal; they
      concluded:

      “This charged,
      notorious, highly publicized case requiring two full trials demanded
      good judgment and a steady hand from the district court. Our careful
      consideration of both the record and Mohr’s appellate arguments persuade
      us that Mohr received precisely that. The judgment of the district
      court is in all respects AFFIRMED.”Here is the opinion of the appellate court.http://www.newinvestigator.com/articles/stephanie_mohr/mohr_appeal.pdfMohr was a bad apple and a disgrace to the badge who finally got what she deserved.

      • If they were cooperating and obeying commands, why was back-up needed? 

  • Anonymous

    I don’t know whether she committed police brutality or not. But I’m guessing she was punished harsher than black or mexican police officers would have been, and harsher than she would have been if she did it to white people.

  • Eight and one-half years for a dog bite.  Everyone knows that is ridiculous. 

  • What is a joke is that someone who is here illegally gets rights under our constitution instead of being treated like a felon. I liken it to someone breaking into your home and then the police arrive and tell you “you have to serve them with an eviction notice”…insanity

  • MrGJG

    This woman sounds like someone we as white people ought not be defending. One of the things I find deplorable in the black community is their utter contemptuousness for law and order.
    White peoples sense of fair play and justice should be striven regardless of race.

  • IanJMacDonald

    “She said…”

    Her self-serving testimony was contradicted by *four* other officers on the scene.

    >They were looking to break in and steal something to sell, just like the responding cops thought. 

    They had no burglary tools.

    >What did Stephanie get?

    She got what every lying sadistic cop should get: an extended stay in the graybar hotel.  And don’t get too weepy-eyed over her; she ended up doing time in a minimum security prison called Camp Cupcake.