A Baltimore police officer faces charges of evidence tampering and misconduct after video taken by his body camera appears to show him planting drugs at a crime scene.
Richard Pinheiro Jr., 29, will be arraigned on the charges Feb. 13, Melba Saunders, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore state’s attorney, told news. Pinheiro will likely remain free pending trial, Saunders said.
A grand jury indicted Pinheiro on Tuesday, finding enough evidence to support allegations that he fabricated physical evidence and committed a wrongful and improper act, authorities said.
“I’ve made a pledge to apply one standard of justice for all,” Marilyn J. Mosby, the Baltimore state’s attorney, said in a statement. “It’s critical we remain transparent throughout the process to the extent the law allows as we continue to rebuild community trust.”
Pinheiro was suspended from the Baltimore police force in July after a 90-second video shot by his body camera was released by the public defender’s office.
The footage, recoded on Jan. 24, shows Pinheiro place a plastic bag into an aluminum can and hide it among garbage in a trash-strewn yard. Pinheiro then exits the area, activates his body camera, and returns to retrieve the plastic bag, which was filled with white capsules.
Pinheiro seemed unaware that Baltimore’s police body cameras record and save 30 seconds of activity before they are switched on.
Pinheiro used the drugs as evidence in a heroin arrest. Once the video was discovered, prosecutors dropped the charges against the suspect and ordered his release from jail.
Prosecutors have since tossed out more than 100 cases tied to Pinheiro.
Pinheiro’s attorney, Michael Davey, said his client is innocent.
“Officer Pinheiro simply tried to document the recovery of evidence with his body-worn camera that he had previously recovered,” Davey told The Baltimore Sun. “This is just another overreach by the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, and an attempt to prosecute a police officer when there’s no evidence to do so.”
Tampering with evidence is a misdemeanor offense, with a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Misconduct, a common law offense, allows for any penalty that does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
Authorities said Pinheiro will likely remain suspended from his job until the case concludes.
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