A Baltimore police officer was found guilty by a judge Friday of fabricating evidence in a case in which his own body-camera footage showed him placing drugs in a vacant lot and then acting as if he had just discovered them.
During his trial, Officer Richard Pinheiro Jr. said that he intentionally recorded the body-camera video to serve as a re-creation of a legitimate discovery of heroin that he had made in a similar manner — but failed to record — moments earlier. He said the re-created video was for “documentation” purposes.
Circuit Judge Melissa Phinn did not accept that explanation, saying it was “without a doubt that he created the video to deceive” — namely in order to avoid being disciplined for not recording his initial discovery of the drugs. And in finding Pinheiro guilty of a second count of misconduct in office, Phinn said his actions represented a “willful abuse of his authority for his own personal gain.”
However, Phinn also said she did not consider Pinheiro “a bad person,” calling the day he recorded the video “an unfortunate day for everybody” and saying she did not believe Pinheiro deserved jail time.
She gave him a three-year suspended sentence and two years of supervised probation, the second year of which will be switched to unsupervised probation if he does not have any compliance issues during the first year. Pinheiro must also perform 300 hours of community service in Baltimore.
Prior to sentencing, Pinheiro told the court he was sorry that he made the re-created video but was “only being a proactive officer” and “had no intent to deceive anybody.”