A Baltimore Police officer who threatened to choke and kill a 17-year-old during an arrest and pushed him in the face was sentenced on Monday to 1 1/2 years’ probation.

In handing down the sentence for second-degree assault and misconduct in office, Baltimore Circuit Judge Gregory Sampson said Officer Maxwell Dundore was the only member of law enforcement who did not conduct himself in an appropriate way on April 27, 2020.

Dundore, he said, had an opportunity to review body camera video from the arrest but misled the court during his testimony.

At the same time, Sampson said, he did not find that it was necessary to impose a punishment that exceeded the sentencing guidelines. Dundore can ask the judge after one year to modify the sentence to probation before judgment.

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“Here’s the situation: Mr. Dundore has no prior record. This is a misconduct in office case and an assault case,” Sampson said. “This is his first offense.”

Police arrested Bobby Adams after he got out of a stolen car on Mayfield Avenue near Cardenas Avenue in Belair-Edison. He was 17 at the time. That’s when a struggle that lasted several minutes ensued, and Adams admitted that he resisted arrest because he did not want to go to jail.

Dundore, a more than five-year veteran, placed his hands near the teen’s neck and stated, “I will choke you. I will kill you.” Later, Dundore pushed Adams in the face while he was lying on the ground handcuffed.

Adams, now 20, testified that the experience traumatized him. He said he could not breathe and feared for his life.

Meanwhile, Dundore testified in his own defense and denied that he used a chokehold. He said he shouted, “I will choke you. I will kill you” as a “defensive tactic” and stated that he did not shove the teen.

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But Dundore apologized for his language during the encounter. He had called Adams a “stupid ass” and, at one point, told him to “shut the hell up.”

Sampson convicted Dundore at the conclusion of a two-day bench trial.

Assistant State’s Attorney Ernest Reitz asked the judge to hand down a punishment above the sentencing guidelines: one year of incarceration plus two years’ probation.

Reitz brought up several factors including the “heinous nature” of the crime. Dundore, he said, treated Adams like a “ragdoll.”

But Natalie Finegar, Dundore’s attorney, said her client is a caring and hardworking police officer who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder because of experiences before and during his career in law enforcement. He’s now on stress leave, she said.

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For instance, Dundore, she said, was one of the first people to respond to the shooting of Sgt. Isaac “Ike” Carrington. Carrington was shot and paralyzed from the chest down in a robbery while off duty in 2019.

Finegar described what happened in the case as an “emotional response” that was inappropriate.

“I think we need to put it into context,” Finegar said. “He cannot stop reliving this incident over and over again.”

Dundore’s wife, Diana, spoke at sentencing and shook and cried on the the witness stand.

She said the couple has talked about what happened during the arrest every day for the last several years. The topic, she said, has consumed their lives. He’s now in cognitive behavioral therapy.

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“He regrets it,” she said. “He’s told me a million times.”

Next, Dundore apologized and started to read from a prepared statement. But the judge cut him off.

“Mr. Dundore — stop,” Sampson said. “I’d really rather you not read from a piece of paper.”

Dundore agreed and continued to speak without it.

He asked the judge to show leniency, stating that he wants to be there for his wife and child. Dundore said he’s going to change careers and will no longer work in law enforcement.

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Outside the courtroom in the Elijah E. Cummings Courthouse, Finegar said her client plans to appeal his conviction to the Appellate Court of Maryland. She has also filed a motion for a new trial.

Following the trial, the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office dropped the case against Dundore’s supervisor, Sgt. Brendan O’Leary, who had been charged with making false statements and misconduct in office. He had been accused of minimizing and distorting facts about the use of force in the arrest and misleading investigators.

State’s Attorney Ivan Bates has previously commended the work of the Public Trust and Police Integrity Unit in a statement.

“I campaigned for this office to change the culture of accountability in Baltimore, regardless of status or rank,” Bates said. “This conviction exemplifies that commitment and is vitally important in restoring public trust in the criminal justice system by reaffirming that officers who break the law will be held accountable for their actions.”

dylan.segelbaum@thebaltimorebanner.com