Baltimore Sun

Judge sentences police sergeant to 1 year in jail over patio project dispute

- By Darcy Costello

A Baltimore Police sergeant accused in summer 2020 of extorting, kidnapping and threatenin­g to arrest a home contractor was sentenced Monday to one year in jail by a Baltimore County judge who called the incident “thuggish.”

James Lloyd, 47, who worked in the department’s Homicide Unit, entered an Alford plea last month to a charge of misconduct in office, court records show, connected to a dispute with the contractor over a patio project. An Alford plea acknowledg­es that there is enough evidence to secure a conviction but stops short of a guilty plea.

As part of the plea agreement, authoritie­s withdrew charges of kidnapping and extortion against Lloyd.

Circuit Court Judge Robert E. Cahill Jr.sentenced Lloyd to three years in the Baltimore County Detention Center and suspended all but one year, followed by 18 months of unsupervis­ed probation.

Cahill said he doesn’t view law enforcemen­t as bad, calling the profession routinely misportray­ed, but added that any public servant who “misuses” their power must be treated in a way that ensures public trust.

In particular, Cahill described the allegation that Lloyd was accompanie­d by other Baltimore Police employees in the incident as “thuggish” and “evocative” of HBO’s “We Own This City” miniseries based on the book describing police corruption.

“The public expects better from us, and they must get better from us,” Cahill said.

Robin Coffin, the deputy state’s attorney who handled the case, called the sentence “incredibly just.” Coffin said the victim, who did not appear in court Monday, was “highly traumatize­d.” His preference was for a plea, Coffin said.

As for Lloyd, Coffin said: “He should never be granted the privilege of carrying a badge again.”

Lloyd’s attorney, Matthew Fraling, said he plans to appeal but declined further comment after the judge’s sentence. He presented the judge with five character witnesses on Lloyd’s behalf and Lloyd himself spoke, apologizin­g to the victim and his family.

Fraling asked the judge on Monday to grant Lloyd probation before judgment. Coffin didn’t specify what sentence prosecutor­s hoped to see from the judge.

The charges against Lloyd stemmed from a dispute over a patio built by the contractor. A few days after the work was completed, some of the stones came loose, according to police, and Lloyd requested a repair.

Charging documents said when the contractor arrived on June 25, 2020, Lloyd confronted him about his license status, saying he could arrest him, and demanded the contractor go to the bank and get a certified check for a refund.

The contractor, Luis Torres Hernandez, feared being arrested, police said, so he complied with the demand.

Three other Baltimore Police officers were present at the confrontat­ion, according to charging documents. All four are on administra­tive duty, with their police powers suspended, a Baltimore Police spokeswoma­n said Monday.

In addition to Lloyd, the involved officers included Juan Diaz, Manuel Larbi and Troy Taylor. Taylor and Larbi have not been criminally charged. Diaz had his charges dropped, according to court records.

Lloyd was the lead detective on the department’s investigat­ion into the high-profile death of Detective Sean Suiter, who was shot in the head Nov. 15, 2017. Suiter had been conducting a follow-up investigat­ion of a homicide in West Baltimore and was scheduled to testify the following day before a federal grand jury investigat­ing allegation­s of wrongdoing by police.

Salary records show Lloyd earned a base salary of $101,941 in fiscal year 2020 and grossed more than $140,000 in total.

Coffin said Monday that the case came to her attention when someone from Baltimore Police’s Internal Affairs contacted her. Her response, she said Monday, was “that’s a criminal matter.”

She told the judge that if Lloyd had an issue with the patio work that was done, he should have taken the matter to court like “the rest of us.”

The contractor wrote a victim impact statement that was shared with Fraling and Cahill, but not read aloud. Coffin told the judge he was “greatly impacted,” indicating he refused to meet with her in any law enforcemen­t facility because he felt vulnerable and afraid. He didn’t appear Monday, she said, because he didn’t want to see Lloyd “ever again.”

A request for comment left with the contractor’s attorney, Bobby Zirkin, was not returned on Monday.

Coffin provided the judge with evidence she said showed Lloyd had searched for informatio­n about the contractor at least eight times, adding it was “not spur of the moment” but “planned.”

Fraling called Lloyd a “hardworkin­g, conscienti­ous” man who had worked for the Baltimore Police Department for 22 years, including taking on more than 1,000 homicide cases.

At Monday’s hearing, Fraling said the case was solely about Lloyd’s misconduct charge and the “inappropri­ate action” of retrieving informatio­n about the contractor, and said Lloyd maintains his innocence in the other charges.

Baltimore Police Lt. Terrence McLarney said at the hearing that Lloyd had no administra­tive issues during his time at the agency and took on “pretty tough” homicide cases. McLarney said he knew Lloyd wouldn’t quit on the cases and said he “really cares” about victims.

The sister of one homicide victim whose case Lloyd worked on said Lloyd promised her family that her brother wouldn’t be just another person killed and kept his word. He’s stayed in touch in the years since that 2010 killing, becoming part of the family, Elsie Rose said.

Lloyd put his head down on his hand at points during the character witness’s remarks, wiping his face with a handkerchi­ef and at times audibly crying. Other speakers included a high school teacher who said he’d become like a son to her, a retired Baltimore Police detective and Lloyd’s uncle.

When Lloyd addressed the judge, he said he was asking for “mercy” and “leniency.” Lloyd said he meant no harm to the contractor.

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