Baltimore Sun

Former Baltimore police officer is sentenced to prison

Ex-detective gets 30 months for gunplantin­g incident

- By Jessica Anderson

A former Baltimore Police detective — who previously was convicted of federal corruption charges and conspired to plant a BB gun on a man who had been run over by another officer’s car in 2014 — was sentenced to 30 months in prison Thursday.

Robert Hankard, who was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, is the third officer to be convicted in the incident, which became public as a result of the federal investigat­ion into the Baltimore Police Department’s corrupt Gun Trace Task Force.

The man police ran over, Demetric Simon, filed a lawsuit against all the police officers involved in framing him, including Hankard, as well as the department. The case is still pending.

Hankard spoke briefly at the sentencing, turning toward the courtroom gallery where Simon was seated, and apologized for his colleagues’ actions but stopped short of admitting guilt himself.

“I’ve lost everything ... I know how it feels,” he told Dixon, who was taken into custody after officers wrongly arrested him for the BB gun.

“Please accept my apology,” Hankard said, before blaming the incident on his supervisor.

“I understand,” Dixon responded softly.

Afterward, outside the courtroom, Dixon said “justice is served,” but that he still was processing Hankard’s comments.

“Hopefully he learned from his wrongdoing­s,” he said.

Simon wrote in a victim impact statement to District Judge Catherine C. Blake that Hankard “never stopped for one second and thought how his actions would destroy another person.”

He asked the judge “to consider the effect to me and the other victims of his actions and inactions.”

Ultimately, Blake went below the top of the federal sentencing guidelines of 63 months, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s 60-month recommenda­tion but above what other officers received in the incident.

She cited the “egregious abuse of trust by Mr. Hankard” and the general need to deter other officers from committing similar acts, as well as speak up if they are aware of such misconduct.

Blake also cited how Hankard “has not accepted responsibi­lity.”

Hankard received a call on March 26, 2014, from former Detective Carmine Vignola, along with former Sgt. Keith Gladstone, asking for a BB gun. They wanted it to frame Simon, who another officer, Wayne Jenkins, had hit with his car. Jenkins headed the Gun Trace Task Force and later pleaded guilty to racketeeri­ng and other charges, and is currently serving a 25-year sentence.

Gladstone, who previously pleaded guilty to his role in the gun-planting scheme and received a 21-month sentence, was among those who testified against Hankard at his trial in April. He said during the trial that Hankard gave Gladstone and Vignola the BB gun.

Jurors also convicted Hankard in April of lying in 2015 on search warrant affidavits and police reports to cover up times he violated people’s constituti­onal protection­s against unwarrante­d searches and seizures.

At his sentencing, Hankard’s attorney, David Benowitz, sought a lighter sentence, saying his client’s career has been destroyed, and the publicity around the case has humiliated him.

Several people spoke on Hankard’s behalf, including his boss who owns a catering and grocery business and a man who said Hankard changed the trajectory of his life.

Norman Johnson said he had met Hankard after being released from prison.

“He helped me stay out of trouble,” Johnson told the judge. “Mr. Rob cares about people. He cares about me.”

As he spoke, Hankard grabbed a tissue and wiped his eye.

Hankard declined to comment to a reporter after the sentencing. He is expected to report back to court in October to be taken into custody.

Hankard was hired by the Baltimore Police Department in 2007 and spent the second half of his career as a detective in specialize­d drug investigat­ion squads, and earned $107,000 in 2019, his last full year of employment.

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