A judge on Tuesday ordered a new trial for a Baltimore Police sergeant who had been convicted of claiming more overtime than he spent listening to jailhouse phone calls in 2018, stating that his actions did not come close to constituting a crime.

Senior Judge Steven I. Platt said he erroneously held off ruling on a motion for judgment of acquittal before he sent the case of Sgt. Robert Dohony to a jury, which found him guilty on Oct. 21 in Baltimore Circuit Court of attempted theft and misconduct in office.

Platt said he should have granted the motion and thrown out the case, and so he ordered a new trial instead of moving forward with sentencing.

Prosecutors alleged that Dohony, 54, sought compensation for a total of 10 hours of overtime on March 20, 2018, and March 22, 2018, when he only spent 1 1/2 hours listening to calls. But he contended that he was working the entire time and performing other duties in the Citywide Shooting Unit.

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“The defendant, Robert Dohony, admitted he made mistakes that perhaps deserved to be sanctioned administratively by the Baltimore Police Department. What he did and didn’t do, while he was indisputably working every minute of the overtime he claimed, in the opinion of this court, did not come close to constituting the elements of either of the crimes with which he was charged,” Platt said.

“This is why he did not get a fair trial and why he should not be tried again,” he added.

Platt referenced the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, which allow judges to reserve ruling on motions for judgment of acquittal.

“In my opinion, the federal rule is better,” he said. “That said, in paraphrasing Dorothy, of ‘Wizard of Oz’ fame, in explaining what happened when she and her dog were whisked far away from Kansas to Oz, I must point out that we’re not in federal court. We’re in Circuit Court for Baltimore City, the land of Oz.”

In court documents, Chaz Ball, Dohony’s attorney, wrote that the state did not refute at trial that his client was working on both dates outside his regularly scheduled hours.

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The Baltimore Police Department would have been responsible for paying Dohony for regular overtime or overtime specific to listening to jailhouse phone calls, Ball said.

Ball said the state’s theory of the case was not only unsupported but conflicted with the law.

In the alternative, Ball asked the judge to grant a new trial in the case.

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Outside the courtroom, Steven Kroll, a specially assigned assistant state’s attorney for Baltimore, declined to comment.

He handled the case because Baltimore Assistant State’s Attorney Matthew Pillion and now-Baltimore Circuit Judge Charles M. Blomquist were witnesses.

Kroll did not make an argument in court.

“The jury’s spoken, your honor,” he said.

Dohony, an almost 30-year veteran, earned a total of $117,729.76 in fiscal year 2021, according to the city’s salary database. It’s unclear if prosecutors will retry the case.

dylan.segelbaum@thebaltimorebanner.com