Charges against motorist dropped when Pr. George's officer fails to appear in court
Richard L. Sheffield went to Prince George's District Court in Upper Marlboro on Monday prepared to fight charges that he drove with an illegally tinted windshield, that he drove with a mutilated license, and that he was disorderly.
Sheffield had hired an attorney, Darrell Robinson. He had an inspection document from Maryland State Police attesting that his windshield's tint was legal. And he had a witness -- a friend who saw his encounter with the police officer, prepared to testify that Sheffield's license was fine when he handed it to the officer.
The charges were dismissed by District Court Judge Jean S. Baron when county Officer Paul Scheinsburg, who arrested Sheffield and swore out the charging document against him, did not appear for the scheduled trial.
Schweinsburg did not return a phone message left for him at the Clinton police district, where he works as a patrol officer.
The midafternoon incident occurred in Clinton last Feb. 22, according to the charging document.
The officer alleged that he was driving ahead of Sheffield, who was in a GMC sport utility vehicle, when Sheffield flashed his high beams.
The officer wrote that he was unsure why Sheffield had flashed his high beams, and speculated that maybe he needed help.
After noticing the front windshield of the SUV was too dark to see the driver -- an apparent violation of Maryland law -- Schweinsburg activated his lights to conduct a traffic stop, and caught up with Sheffield after he pulled to the side of gas pumps at a 7-Eleven store.
Sheffield yelled an obscenity and accused the officer of stopping him "because I'm black," Schweinsburg wrote in the documents.
As he tried to calm Sheffield down and close the driver's side door, the officer wrote, Sheffield stuck his leg out. Sheffield continued to yell, causing a public disturbance, Schweinsburg wrote.
In an interview, Sheffield provided a different account.
He said the officer yelled at him and his female friend, providing confusing commands. For instance, Sheffield said, the officer demanded his license and registration. "I tried to hand it to him but he wouldn't take it," Sheffield said.
Sheffield said he was sitting in the vehicle with his left leg near where the door closes when Schweinsburg slammed the door shut.
The console hit his knee, Sheffield said. "I screamed because it hurt," Sheffield said. "The door didn't close, and he shoved it."
Sheffield said he and his friend both called 911, and Schweinsburg called for backup. Additional officers arrived, and Schweinsburg arrested Sheffield. Sheffield, of Upper Marlboro, said his driver's license was fine when he handed it to Schweinsburg but was badly bent when the officer returned it.
Sheffield said he spent about two hours at the county jail in Upper Marlboro and was released on his own recognizance.
-- Ruben Castaneda
May 25, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories: From the Courthouse , Pr. George's , Ruben Castaneda
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