Baltimore Police detective strikes plea agreement in assault, misconduct case

Published 12/1/2022 1:01 p.m. EST, Updated 12/1/2022 2:28 p.m. EST

Baltimore Police respond to the corner of Shirley Ave. and Park Heights Ave. after multiple people were shot Wednesday, 8/24/22.

A Baltimore Police detective on Thursday entered an Alford plea to misconduct in office on allegations that he assaulted two men who were watching a search and then lied about what happened in a statement of probable cause in 2019.

Leon Riley IV, 31, did not admit guilt but acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to obtain a conviction. He was set to stand trial before Baltimore Circuit Judge Gregory Sampson before accepting the plea agreement.

The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office agreed to drop charges of second-degree assault and perjury and cap Riley’s sentence at three years, with all time suspended, plus 1 1/2 years’ probation. He will be able to argue for probation before judgment at his sentencing on Feb. 17.

Assistant State’s Attorney Ernest Reitz read a statement of facts in court in support of the conviction:

On April 22, 2019, Riley was searching someone suspected of violating drug laws on South Smallwood Street in Boyd-Booth. Sterlyn Butcher and Stephon Martin were standing 5-10 feet away, watching the interaction.

Police told them to back up several times, and they eventually moved 10-15 feet away. But Riley approached the men without justification or provocation and yelled at them to leave.

Riley then pushed Butcher. Martin tried to separate the two and resolve the conflict but ended up making contact with the detective’s body camera, which was mounted on his chest. That’s when Riley pushed Martin. Next, Riley pushed the men again, which caused Martin to lunge at him.

Body camera video showed that Riley used a prohibited neck hold when he arrested Martin.

Later, Riley falsely alleged in a statement of probable cause that Butcher “stepped then within feet of this detective and postured himself in aggressive manner, balling his fist and jerking his head in my direction.” Prosecutors said body camera video of the arrest contradicted that account.

Chaz Ball, Riley’s attorney, declined to comment.

Outside the courtroom, Riley shook Reitz’s hand before leaving the Elijah E. Cummings Courthouse.

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Earlier this year, Circuit Judge Philip S. Jackson acquitted Riley in an unrelated police misconduct case of first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.

The Baltimore Board of Estimates is scheduled to vote next week on approving more than $137,000 in back pay for Riley. He’s entitled to receive the money for the time he spent on unpaid leave from Aug. 27, 2020, to July 15, 2022, according to the meeting agenda.

Riley is a 10-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department. His police powers are suspended, said Lindsey Eldridge, a police spokesperson, in an email.