WASHINGTON– A federal jury yesterday convicted a Baltimore Police Department (BPD) officer, Gregory Mussmacher, on civil rights and obstruction charges related to his physical abuse in 2004 of a then-17-year-old arrestee whom Mussmacher assaulted with a baton while the teen was handcuffed, shackled and temporarily blinded by pepper-spray. A second former BPD officer, Guy Gerstel, pleaded guilty on the first day of trial to lying to the FBI, and admitted that he too had assaulted the teenager while he was restrained. A third former officer, Sergeant Wayne Thompson, also pleaded guilty, admitting that he engaged in obstruction of justice to help cover up the assaults.
At trial, Gerstel and Thompson testified against their former colleague, defendant Mussmacher. They and other government witnesses established that Mussmacher had gotten into a verbal argument with the teenager at the scene of his arrest. In response to verbal taunting from the teen, Mussmacher took off his badge and gun, removed the teen’s handcuffs, and challenged him to a fight. After the arrestee refused to fight the officer, Mussmacher pepper-sprayed him in the face. A short time later, when Mussmacher had him alone in a room at the police station, he used his police baton to slam the fully-restrained teenager in the face, breaking his orbital bone and fracturing his jaw in two places. The evidence established that Mussmacher then submitted false and misleading police reports to cover up what had happened.
“Law enforcement officers who use their badges as an excuse to commit egregious acts of violence are an affront to the rule of law,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Civil Rights Division will continue to aggressively prosecute officers who abuse their power in this manner.”
“Most law enforcement officers earn our confidence by performing their duties with honor and integrity,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein of the District of Maryland. “Police officers who abuse suspects, write false reports and obstruct justice must be held accountable so that citizens can have confidence in law enforcement agencies.”
Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 23, 2010, and Mussmacher faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
This case was investigated by the Baltimore Division of the FBI, and was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Forrest Christian and Kevonne Small, and Special Litigation Counsel Jeffrey Blumberg, with support from the Baltimore U.S. Attorney’s Office.