An article in the Feb. 4 Metro section misidentified the author of an opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit upholding the criminal conviction of a Prince George's County police officer. The opinion was written by Judge Diana Gribbon Motz. (Published 2/5/03)
The federal civil rights conviction of a former Prince George's County police canine unit officer who released her dog on an unarmed man was upheld yesterday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.
The ruling upheld the conviction of Stephanie C. Mohr, 32, in connection with a September 1995 incident in Takoma Park in which she released her police dog on a homeless immigrant. The man was surrounded by police officers who had their guns trained on him.
"This is a wake-up call to all Prince George's police officers that all persons must be treated with dignity by people in power," said Steven Smitson, a lawyer with Casa of Maryland, a Silver Spring-based organization that advocates for immigrants.
Mohr would not comment last night.
In March 2001, a federal jury acquitted Mohr of conspiracy but deadlocked on the civil rights charge. She was retried and convicted of the civil rights violation in August.
In December 2001, U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow imposed the maximum 10-year sentence on Mohr. Chasanow said the sentence was longer than it might have been because Mohr had perjured herself in two trials, had used a dangerous weapon (her police dog) and had inflicted serious bodily injury on the victim, Ricardo G. Mendez, a Mexican national.
Chasanow allowed Mohr to remain free pending appeal.
Anthony M. Walker, president of the police union that represents most county police officers, said many county officers had "held out some hope that [Mohr's conviction] would be overturned."
Mohr's appellate attorney, Fred Warren Bennett, challenged a decision by Chasanow at the second trial to allow federal prosecutors to introduce evidence about two incidents after the Takoma Park attack.
In one incident, a woman testified for the government that Mohr had threatened to release her police dog on her. In the other incident, a teenager testified that Mohr released her dog on him and struck him in the head with a flashlight or baton while he was sleeping in a hammock.
Bennett argued that the evidence should not have been allowed into the trial and was prejudicial to Mohr.
The 19-page appellate decision, written by Chief Judge J. Frederick Motz, noted that Chasanow allowed the government to introduce only two of six incidents in which prosecutors alleged that Mohr used her dog against unarmed people. The decision also notes that Mohr testified as to her version of the incidents.
Staff writer Jamie Stockwell contributed to this report.