A single tear streaked down the cheek of Demetric Simon as he sat in court listening to the sentencing of a corrupt police sergeant who eight years earlier helped plant a BB gun on him.
He had already heard prosecutors praise Keith Gladstone for cooperating with the government, and now Gladstone’s defense attorney and family were describing him as a good person who had made a mistake but owned up to it. Simon walked out of the courtroom.
“It’s a smack in the face. I felt disrespected,” Simon said. “If I do something one time, I’m a menace.”
Gladstone was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison on Wednesday for helping then-Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, the eventual ringleader of the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force, plant a BB gun on Simon in 2014, after Jenkins ran Simon over with his car in Northeast Baltimore.
Gladstone pleaded guilty to that crime in 2019, and in doing so cooperated with the federal government and detailed 20 years worth of other crimes: stealing money and property, lying in search warrant affidavits and one time using another officer’s informant to sell cocaine seized in a massive drug bust.
“Out of his cooperation yielded prosecutions of four additional police officers,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise told Judge Catherine Blake.
Defense attorney David Irwin said that after learning prosecutors were going to charge his client, Gladstone immediately said he was guilty and wanted to cooperate. He ultimately spent “hundreds of hours” talking to federal agents, Irwin said.
The act was hardly noble and because of his cooperation, crimes Gladstone detailed were not held against him. Even after Jenkins and other members of the Gun Trace Task Force were indicted in early 2017 Gladstone was trying to cover his tracks. In January 2018, Gladstone met another officer involved in the BB gun planting incident in a pool at a YMCA — so that both could ensure they were not recording each other — and they discussed what they would say if confronted by the FBI. He wasn’t charged until early 2019. The Gun Trace Task Force members were convicted by February 2018.
Gladstone testified earlier this year that he was willing to lie and go to jail to protect his subordinates, Robert Hankard and Carmine Vignola. But he believed they burned him when they were later brought before a grand jury. “They made choices to protect themselves, not me. For their benefit,” he said.
“I appreciate Gladstone testified against other officers also responsible, but only after he was caught red-handed,” Simon said in a victim impact letter to Judge Blake. “But that’s what a narcissist does.”
Wise said that during the initial round of conversations with cooperating members of the Gun Trace Task Force, no direct allegations about Gladstone emerged. “He was mentioned as kind of a shadowy figure,” Wise said. “There was smoke but never fire.”
But the officers talked about carrying around BB guns that could be planted if they got into a situation they couldn’t otherwise justify. Jenkins told them of having such an experience.
The FBI then found Simon’s case from 2014, and started building it out. Though the incident had been investigated by a new unit called the Force Investigation Team that was designed to improve police use-of-force investigations, Gladstone’s presence on the scene hadn’t even been documented.
Irwin said Gladstone came from a broken home and was kicked out at age 17, and eventually joined the military. He found camaraderie and brotherhood there and later in the Police Department. Irwin said Gladstone fell victim of “misguided loyalty in the street war in Baltimore City that we call the drug war.”
Gladstone’s family members asked Judge Blake for leniency, saying he was a good father who cared about others. They said he had been anxious and depressed while awaiting sentencing for the past three years but was eager to make amends.
One of his adult sons recalled going on a ride along with his father, and seeing a man resist arrest. He said the officer faced scrutiny for his actions. “The DA is after them [police], not criminals in the street,” he said.
Another son, just discharged from the Army, said he did not condone his father’s actions but understood them. “Once you become part of something righteous, you begin to believe the ends justify the means,” he said. “It’s not a thought for a soldier.”
Simon, meanwhile, is still trying to put his life back together. He says he spent weeks in a wheelchair and still feels pain when he walks. He has a pending $17 million civil lawsuit against former officers and the Police Department.
“I still have the fear of what else the police could do,” Simon said in his victim impact letter.