Suspect Accuses Police of Fabrication

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 26, 2009; Page B03

One of the two young men charged with causing a car crash that killed eight people last year in Prince George's County alleged yesterday that police fabricated a statement in which he says he and his co-defendant were street racing when the crash occurred.

Tavon Taylor, 19, said he signed the statement July 29 because a Charles County sheriff's deputy promised that the charges against him would be dropped if he did so. Taylor also said he was high on marijuana and in a "daze" during the questioning.

Taylor was testifying at a pretrial hearing at which his attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon, is seeking to have the statement thrown out on the grounds that it was obtained improperly. Under Maryland law, law enforcement investigators are not allowed to make threats or promises to a defendant or witness to obtain a statement.

Taylor's trial is scheduled for May.

In a brief interview after his testimony, the investigators -- Cpl. Christopher Hinkson of the Prince George's police and Cpl. Donald Belfield of the Charles sheriff's department -- denied fabricating the statement and said they did nothing wrong.

"We didn't make any statement up," Belfield said.

"Absolutely not," Hinkson added.

The six-page statement, in a question-and-answer format, was handwritten by Belfield and Hinkson. Taylor signed each page.

According to the statement, Taylor said he and co-defendant Darren Jamar Bullock, 21, were at a home in the Waldorf area when Bullock asked him "four or five times" if he wanted to race.

Taylor is quoted as saying that several hours after the taunts, about 3 a.m. Feb. 16, 2008, he and Bullock raced on Indian Head Highway. About a half-mile down the road, the statement says, Taylor saw "a lot of smoke" from Bullock's car.

According to police, Bullock had plowed into a group of spectators gathered on the road to watch another illegal street race.

In court yesterday, Taylor testified that he was arrested July 29, about five hours after he appeared before a Prince George's grand jury. He said Belfield began writing the questions and answers, without asking him anything. When Belfield left the room, Hinkson came in and continued writing the statement, Taylor testified.

Taylor testified that, when he signed a form affirming he had been advised of his rights, he checked boxes indicating investigators had made promises to him and also that he was under the influence of drugs.

Under cross-examination, Taylor acknowledged that he checked the boxes before Belfield allegedly promised the charges against him would be dropped. Hinkson testified that the check marks were a "mistake."

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