Prince George's Co. officer pleads guilty to misconduct for hitting handcuffed teen in custody

A Prince George's County police officer has been found guilty Thursday of misconduct in office stemming from a 2012 incident.

Officer Jerry Thomas, a five-year veteran, was standing trial this week, accused of hitting a 15-year-old boy who was handcuffed and in custody in a holding cell.

The state had just concluded its case against Thomas when the officer decided to enter what is called an Alford Plea.

The incident happened in the District 3 station in Palmer Park back in November of 2012 when prosecutors say the 15-year-old boy, facing a charge of destruction of property, was assaulted by the officer while sitting in the holding cell.

It was a violent encounter that was recorded by a camera inside the cell.

The video, which was used by the state and shown to the judge hearing the case, was released to the public after Officer Thomas entered his plea.

It shows three officers walking down a hallway before Thomas enters the cell and strikes the teenager twice before slamming his head down on what appears to be a bench or a bed.

Thomas and his attorney were expected to put on their defense Thursday when the officer had a change of heart and entered an Alford Plea, which by definition means Thomas agrees the state has enough evidence to convict him, but maintains his innocence.

Why did he enter the cell in the first place?

At the time of the officer's indictment, police said the teen was being disorderly and making a lot of noise.

"When you review this video, the conduct in this video, it's disturbing to me," said Prince George's County Police Chief Mark Magaw. "It angers me and there is no place for it. It is inexcusable and there is no place for it on the police department."

He said Officer Thomas' conduct was reported by another officer, but it took nearly two and a half years to get the case to trial. This was, in part, because the investigation somehow got misplaced, and by the time it was presented to the state's attorney's office, the statute of limitations on assault had expired.

"Once it had gotten to a review process in the command staff there, it was referred to the Internal Affairs Division because of the severity of this case," said Chief Magaw. "We lost track of that case. We put protocols in place now so that does not happen again. So this was not intentional."

Thomas was indicted back in November and his trial began this week before a circuit court judge.

"I think it doesn't change no matter how many times you view this video, the word ‘unacceptable' [comes up] and it's a crime," said Prince George's County state's attorney Angela Alsobrooks. "That's the reason we indicted Mr. Thomas and that's the reason that he is now held accountable for his conduct."

"The trust in this community has allowed us to do things in the last four years that this county hasn't experienced ever, and it's because of the trust in the community that we have been able to drive down crime the way we have," said Chief Magaw. "Anyone who violates that trust, I will take appropriate action immediately."

At the time of the indictment, the police said the teenager who was struck did not need medical care.

He would be at least 17 years old now and he did not testify for the state.

Officer Thomas is still on administrative leave with pay and will be sentenced June 22.

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