Baltimore Police Department Officer Sentenced to Five Years in Prison

WASHINGTON – A federal judge in Baltimore today sentenced a former Baltimore Police Department officer to serve five years in prison for violating the civil rights of a juvenile arrestee, the Justice Department announced today. Gregory Mussmacher was convicted by a jury in May 2010 for physically abusing a juvenile in his custody and for obstructing justice to cover up what he had done.

The abuse incident occurred in April 2004, when the defendant used his police-issued baton to strike a handcuffed and shackled juvenile in the head and face. Following the incident in 2004, Mussmacher was tried for assault and was convicted in state court. However, that conviction was later reversed, and federal authorities assumed responsibility for the case. Prosecutors with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice conducted an independent investigation of the matter and brought charges against three officers, including Mussmacher, for civil rights and obstruction violations. The other two officers, Guy Gerstel and Wayne Thompson, pleaded guilty before trial and testified against Mussmacher.

“The power that accompanies a police officer’s badge does not give the officer the right to violate the civil rights of those in his or her custody,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil rights Division. “The Justice Department will aggressively prosecute any officer who abuses their power and violates the public trust in this way.”

“Any police officer who abuses a suspect, writes false reports and obstructs justice must be held accountable,” said Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland. “This case is an embarrassment to the many officers who earn our confidence by performing their duties with honor and integrity.”

Gerstel, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI during the investigation, will be sentenced on Nov. 18, 2010. Thompson, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor obstruction charge, was sentenced on Sept. 30, 2010, to serve 6 months of home detention.

This case was investigated by the Baltimore Division of the FBI, and was prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Attorneys Forrest Christian, Jeff Blumberg and Kevonne Small, with the support of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.