Judge Sentences [rewards] White Baltimore Cop to Community Service after Finding Him Guilty of Manipulating Bodycam Video to Fabricate Evidence Used to Detain & Prosecute Black Man

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From [HERE] A Baltimore police officer on Friday was found guilty of misconduct and fabricating evidence nearly a year after body-camera video was released showing him putting narcotics in a discarded soup can and then acting like he just stumbled upon the drugs.

The video was turned over to defense attorneys as part of the usual discovery process. Pinheiro apparently did not realize that the agency's body cams retain footage 30 seconds before an officer presses the record button. His body camera captured both him hiding the drugs and then finding them. 

The video has no sound and shows the officer placing a soup can, which holds a plastic bag, into a trash-strewn lot. That portion of the footage was recorded automatically, before the officer activated the camera. After placing the can, the officer walks to the street, and flips his camera on.

The audio then begins once the officer's fingers are seen in the camera lens and he walks down an alley to a sidewalk. "I'm gonna go check here," Pinheiro tells the other two officers as he returns to the lot, picks through some trash and then appears to discover the soup can, pulling out a baggie with white capsules. "Hold up," he says.

Police cameras have a feature that saves the 30 seconds of video before activation, but without audio. When the officer is first in the alley, there is no audio for the first 30 seconds.

The video led prosecutors to drop the felony drug case against a Black man who had been jailed for nearly six months. As a result of the discovery along with two other cops who had also manipulated video more than thirty other were dismissed

Richard Pinheiro Jr. asserted that he'd forgotten to turn his body camera on at first so he decided to re-create his discovery of a baggie of heroin capsules stuffed inside a can in a weed-choked alley.

"I had no intent to deceive anyone. I truly didn't," Pinheiro said to Baltimore Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn at the close of his trial.

Saying she did not feel "jail time is appropriate in this case," Phinn sentenced him to a three-year suspended sentence with two years of supervised probation. He must also perform 300 hours of community service.

The maximum penalty for fabricating evidence, a misdemeanor, is three years in prison.

After the Public Defender's office released the video, then-Police Commissioner Kevin Davis suspended Pinheiro's police powers. But he cautioned against a rush to judgment, suggesting that it may have been a re-enactment of a crime scene, even if that was "inconsistent" with proper police work. Later, when drug cases across the city fell apart, he clarified that re-enactments are against policy.

The case led to Baltimore's force changing policy to mandate that officers keep their cameras on from the beginning of an event until that event is concluded and they have left the scene.

Baltimore is under a federal consent decree to reform its police department after the U.S. Justice Department discovered longstanding patterns of excessive force, unlawful arrests and discriminatory police practices.