We are proud to announce this recent news about Stephanie Mohr. She was released to a half way house last May in Baltimore. After a few months she was released to her parents home in nearby Glen Burnie. Since then she has achieved complete release from supervision and is living with a friend in Chesapeake. The Fraternal Order of Police and Firemen’s union sponsored a Welcome Home party for Stephanie, at which time Chairman Martin presented her with a $10,000 check to get her off to a good start. Stephanie is now working for a law firm that does Workmen’s compensation claims for the Police; so she is helping law enforcement once again.
Here is her story:
Prince George’s County (Maryland) Police Officer Stephanie Mohr was sentenced to serve 10 years in jail because her police dog chased a fleeing suspect and bit him.
The incident took place in 1995, in Takoma Park, Maryland, where Officer Mohr was patrolling in a P.G. County Canine squad car. Responding to a call in which two burglary suspects were on the roof of a building, Officer Mohr, along with several other officers and a helicopter above, ordered two suspects, Ricardo Mendez and Herrera Cruz, to face the wall. Mendez, instead, started to flee, and Officer Mohr released the police dog to chase him. This was completely within the police guidelines of standard operating procedure. The dog bit suspect Mendez on the leg. Subsequently Mendez and the other suspect were charged with 4th degree burglary. They were deported, but re-entered the U.S. illegally and were arrested for selling crack cocaine at which time they were again deported.
One day before the statute of limitations was set to expire, the federal Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice indicted Officer Stephanie Mohr, along with two other policemen, on civil rights violations and conspiracy charges. The Takoma Park Police Department, under investigation by federal authorities, suddenly brought up this incident almost five years after it occurred. Their version of the event had officers at the scene asking if the canine could take a bite out of the suspects, and when the senior officer said “yes,” Officer Mohr released the dog without just cause. Officer Mohr was found not guilty of conspiracy but the hung jury (11 to 1 for acquittal of Mohr) was unable to reach a unanimous decision on the civil rights violations.
A re-trial was sought even though jurors interviewed from the first trial said that the case lacked merit. The second trial was held in August 2001. This time, the prosecution convinced the jury that Mohr had released her canine on innocent minority citizens. Officer Mohr was convicted of a federal criminal civil rights violation and was given the maximum sentence allowed – 10 years.
The principal reason that Mohr was convicted is because in the second trial, unlike the first one, the judge allowed highly prejudicial testimony into evidence that Officer Mohr had used racial epithets in making a prior arrest using her canine. The litigation had not started out as racial, but the prosecutors used this last resort tactic in a desperate move to save their case. This questionable evidence should never have been allowed and is one of the main arguments in Officer Mohr’s appeal.
We have moved for a new trial and a hearing was held on August 5 on our motion. If we do not win at the hearing, we are prepared to appeal that decision. Stephanie remains in federal prison and has been there over four years. There is no longer parole in the federal system so if we do not win, she will serve over nine years.
Stephanie Mohr, who has received more than 25 letters of commendation and two awards for her police work since 1993, resigned after the August 15 conviction. At that time, Mohr – mother of a 2-year-old son – appealed to LELDF for assistance with her case.