Det. Daniel T. Nicholson IV, the lead investigator in the missing person’s case of honor student Phylicia Barnes, was charged on April 29 with four counts in an illegal police search to find his own runaway daughter.
Nicholson faces two counts of second-degree assault, one count of fourth-degree burglary and one count of making a false statement to police, the state’s attorney’s office said in a news release.
"As these charges demonstrate yet again, I am committed to investigating allegations of police misconduct and prosecuting officers who violate the laws they have sworn to enforce," said State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein in a statement.
Nicholson’s daughter Moriah went missing on April 20, 2012 from their home in the Gywnn Oak community in Baltimore County. The Baltimore City Police public information department posted the flyer of the missing 15-year-old via their social media networks, although the investigation was not in their jurisdiction, said law enforcement officials.
According to the state’s attorney’s office, on April 22, 2012 Nicholson, accompanied by persons who were not identified by prosecutors, knocked on the door of a home in the 5500 block of Bowleys Lane in search of Nicholson’s daughter. A woman answered the door and denied Nicholson’s daughter was present in the home. Nicholson and others pushed passed the woman, knocking her down, along with another person.
When questioned about the incident the next day, Nicholson allegedly said he went to the home on Bowleys Lane, knocked on the door and left when there was no answer, officials said.
"Detective Daniel Nicholson is accused of egregious violations of public trust that will never be tolerated,” said Baltimore City Police Commissioner Anthony Batts in a statement. “His actions undermine the very hard work our police officers do every day to make Baltimore safer.”
After receiving a call involving the incident, the internal affairs department of the Baltimore City Police Department and the Police Integrity Unit of the State’s Attorney’s Office began a year-long investigation. Nicholson was suspended from the department in late April 2012.
Nicholson’s attorney Matthew Fraling said Nicholson is still working in the Baltimore City Police department. He said Nicholson’s police powers have been suspended, but he has been receiving pay handling administrative duties for the past year working a full-time work week..
“We maintain his innocence,” said Fraling to the AFRO. “Det. Nicholson did not do anything out of the scope of the law. He did what any parent would do to locate his missing child.”
Fraling said he is optimistic that Nicholson’s police powers will be reinstated after the course of the trial.
Nicholson’s investigation was also brought up previously during the trial of Michael Maurice Johnson, who is accused of murdering Phylicia Barnes. During the trial Johnson’s defense attorney Ivan J. Bates said a motion for prosecutorial misconduct was filed against the state’s attorney’s office for failure to charge Nicholson, allowing him to testify during the trial.
“They had the information to indict him and they held out, so they could be disingenuous to the jury,” said Bates. “It was unfair to Johnson and Nicholson. It’s as if they used him.”
Bates said he is unaware of any new evidence that has been brought against Nicholson that the state’s attorney’s office was not already aware of during Johnson’s trial.
Russell Neverdon, who is the lead defense attorney in Johnson’s re-trial, which was granted by Judge Alfred Nance in lieu of evidence that was withheld from the defense team, said he does not know whether the prosecutor will use Nicholson’s testimony in the re-trial. However, he said that it would call into question the credibility of many key pieces of evidence and testimony from the initial trial.
Mark Cheshire, state’s attorney’s spokesperson, said “[Nicholson’s] role in the Phylicia Barnes case had nothing to do with the timing in our charging of Nicholson.”
Anthony Gugliemi, spokesperson for the Baltimore City Police Department, said the yearlong investigation was essential in helping to build a solid case against Nicholson.
Nicholson was an 18-year veteran with the Baltimore City Police Department. He is scheduled for arraignment on May 20, 2013.