A Baltimore Police officer who stole an envelope containing more than $100 from a business must spend one year on probation and perform 200 hours of community service, a judge has ordered.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Yvette M. Bryant said Officer Eric Payton violated the public trust when he took the money from Soy Transportation Inc., on Belair Road near Southern Avenue in Northeast Baltimore, during a business check on Sept. 20, 2023. The Baltimore Police Department remains under a consent decree, she said, which “emanates in part from this kind of behavior.”
Payton, 46, of Parkville, who had been a more than seven-year veteran, has since resigned from the department. A surveillance camera captured him stealing the envelope, but testimony at trial about exactly how much money was inside it ranged from $111 to $126.
Bryant said she did not believe that probation before judgment was appropriate. She said she absolutely disagreed with the suggestion that him losing his career in law enforcement was punishment.
“Jail is a punishment. Probation’s a punishment. Community service might be a punishment,” Bryant said as she sentenced him on Monday on charges of theft and misconduct in office.
“But having to live with the consequences of one’s decision is not a punishment. It is a self-inflicted wound.”
During the one-day bench trial, Payton testified that he forgot that he’d picked up the envelope and said that it slipped his mind. He previously worked for Baltimore City Public Schools Police.
Assistant State’s Attorney Kimberly Rothwell asked for jail time and said Payton was tasked with protecting and securing a business, but chose to steal from it.
The theft, she said, put several people at risk. That’s including his partner, Officer Francisco Jeanty, who would have faced an internal affairs investigation if a security camera had not recorded what happened, Rothwell said.
“Mr. Payton’s actions that day have brought shame to the Baltimore Police Department and further damaged an already fragile relationship with the community,” Rothwell said.
Rothwell asked for a sentence of three months’ incarceration plus 1 1/2 years’ probation and 126 hours of community service.
But Chaz Ball, Payton’s attorney, said his client made a terrible decision that’s caused him to lose his career in law enforcement.
Ball brought up the search results that now come up for his client on Google. He’s since repaid the money.
“This stain will be on him forever,” Ball said.
Payton, he said, was quickly suspended without pay and later resigned from the department. He will “never, ever be able to be certified again” as a police officer in Maryland, Ball said.
Ball requested probation before judgment and community service. He noted that his client would not be able to immediately receive an expungement, or the removal of a case from court and law enforcement records.
Payton made a brief statement and apologized for his actions.
“This is definitely an embarrassment to me as well as the Police Department and to my family,” said Payton, who added that he spent 17 years in law enforcement. “I’m definitely regretful for everything that I’ve caused.”