Wednesday, April 1, 2009

BALTIMORE (AP) - Two Baltimore police officers beat a teenager with a baton and a pool stick while he was handcuffed and shackled, then tried to cover up the attack with their sergeant’s help, according to a federal indictment unsealed Wednesday.

Officers Gregory Mussmacher and Guy Gerstel and Sgt. Wayne Thompson face charges of civil rights violations in a six-count indictment.

Gerstel and Thompson have retired. Mussmacher, 34, has been suspended with pay since the April 2004 incident, even though he was convicted in February 2005 of second-degree criminal assault, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.

Mussmacher remained under suspension because city police were cooperating with the FBI, which was investigating the beating, Guglielmi said. But Guglielmi could not explain why Mussmacher was not kicked off the force immediately after his conviction. Mussmacher received a suspended sentence and probation.

The alleged beating victim, Benjamin R. Rowland, filed a federal lawsuit against Mussmacher and Gerstel in 2007, seeking $6 million in damages. The lawsuit was settled out of court.

Rowland is identified only as “B.R.” in the indictment.

According to the indictment, Mussmacher hit Rowland in the face with a baton and Gerstel struck him in the back with a pool stick after he was arrested on April 27, 2004. Rowland was 17 years old at the time.

The indictment says Gerstel obstructed justice by lying under oath in a state proceeding about the presence of two other officers when Rowland was arrested. Gerstel is also accused of making false statements to the FBI about his role in the beating.

Thompson and Mussmacher submitted false police reports about Rowland’s arrest and how he was injured, according to the indictment.

Before beating Rowland, Mussmacher removed the teen’s handcuffs, set aside his badge and gun and offered to fight Rowland, the indictment says. The teen was never charged with a crime as a result of his arrest.

Gerstel faces up to 35 years in prison if convicted of all three charges against him; Mussmacher faces 15 years, and Thompson faces five years.

No attorneys had entered appearances on the officers’ behalf Wednesday, and their initial court appearances had not yet been scheduled, said Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Baltimore.

Joseph E. Spicer, who represented Mussmacher in the lawsuit, declined to comment. Rowland’s attorney in the lawsuit, Robert L. Smith Jr., did not immediately return a message.

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