- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 15, 2001

A jury yesterday returned two not-guilty verdicts but was hung on three other charges against three police officers in Prince George's County, Md., accused of unleashing a police dog on two burglary suspects about six years ago.
After nearly nine hours of deliberations, the six-woman, six-man jury in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Md., told Judge Deborah Chasanow there appeared to be "no chance of resolution" on the three charges.
The judge excused and released the jurors.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach declined to comment and referred questions to U.S. Attorney Stephen Schenning, who said the case will be reviewed before deciding if a retrial will be held on the unresolved charges.
The trial's end marks the second high-profile acquittal in recent weeks of a Prince George's County police officer accused of excessive force. A county Circuit Court judge last month found Officer Brian C. Catlett not guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of an unarmed man in 1999.
Prince George's County police Cpl. Stephanie Mohr, 30, and Sgt. Anthony Delozier, 39, and former Takoma Park police detective Brian Rich had been on trial in the dog-biting case for 2 and 1/2 weeks.
The jury found Cpl. Mohr, the dog's handler, not guilty of conspiracy to violate the rights of Ricardo Mendez on Sept. 21, 1995. The jury could not decide on a charge of her violating Mendez's rights by siccing the dog, which bit the burglary suspect on the left calf.
The jury found Sgt. Delozier, then a corporal, not guilty of violating Mendez's rights but could not reach a verdict on the conspiracy count.
The jurors found Mr. Rich, now an FBI agent assigned to Newark, N.J., not guilty on an accessory-after-the-fact charge. Prosecutors said he falsified arrest reports to cover up his misdeeds and those of the Prince George's County officers.
"Special Agent Brian Rich walked into this courtroom as an innocent man. And he walks out of this courtroom as an innocent man," said defense attorney Robert Bonsib.
"Cpl. Mohr is deeply gratified by the hard work of the jury," said her attorney, David Simpson.
"It was a good day for Sgt. Delozier and the Prince George's Police Department," said attorney Harry Trainor.
Mendez and Jorge Herrera-Cruz were being arrested as burglary suspects when the dog attacked Mendez. Police had spotted them on the roof of a Takoma Park office building.
Witnesses generally agreed the two were on the ground and had their hands in the air, either facing a wall or facing a semicircle of six officers with guns drawn.
Mendez testified he felt something touch his left thigh, lowered his left hand and pivoted to the left just before the dog bit his calf. Police testified that Mendez was wearing a long polo shirt over his waist, where a weapon might have been concealed.
Conflicting testimonies related that Cpl. Delozier had asked Takoma Park Sgt. Dennis Bonn just before the attack, "Hey Sarge, got a new dog here. Mind if it gets a bite?"
Bonn, who pleaded guilty Nov. 6 to being an accessory, testified he answered "Yes" and the dog was released immediately. Sgt. Delozier testified he was asking if it was a "red flag" situation, in which felony suspects are apprehended, but it is unknown if they have weapons.
Later, police determined that Mendez and Cruz were only sleeping on the roof. They were charged with fourth-degree burglary. Cruz pleaded guilty before Circuit Judge Vincent Femia and returned to El Salvador.
Defense attorneys said that assistant U.S. Attorneys and FBI agents began intensively investigating the case early last year. They said the repeated interrogations, particularly of Mr. Rich, coerced several witnesses to "remember" incriminating details.
The three officers were indicted Sept. 20, just one day before the statute of limitations ran out, which would have prevented charges and prosecution.
Defense attorneys also pointed out that Bonn plea-bargained. He pleaded guilty five days after he retired after 30 years with the Takoma Park police. He would have lost an annual $18,000 pension if he had been charged earlier.


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