By Stephen Janis and Taya Graham
Special to the AFRO
A former Eastern Shore Police chief charged with misconduct is expected to plead guilty to hiding critical background information related to an officer who was later involved in the death of a Black teen on Maryland’s Eastern Shore Eastern Shore.
Stephen Tully, the lawyer for former Greensboro, Md., Police Chief Michael Petyo confirmed to the AFRO that his client would plead guilty to one count of misconduct in office as part of a plea agreement with the Maryland State Prosecutor’s Office. The agreement includes the stipulation prosecutors recommend Petyo should not serve time in jail.
Anton Black was 19-years old when he was killed after he was stopped by police in Greensboro, Md., on the state’s Eastern Shore in Sept. 2018. He had committed no crime. (Courtesy Photo)
“That is part of the ongoing negotiations,” Tully confirmed during a phone interview.
The charges stem from Petyo’s decision to withhold past use of force complaints lodged against Greensboro police officer Thomas Webster IV, from his application for police powers with the state body that certifies police officers.
Last year the board decertified Webster after it determined roughly two dozen use of force complaints related to his job as an officer in Dover, DE were omitted from his application.
The omission came to light after Webster’s involvement in the death of Anton Black, a Black teen who lived in Greensboro and died during an arrest in September of 2018.
Black was chased by police after a White woman called 911 claiming he had kidnapped a 12-year old boy. The alleged victim was his cousin. A video of Black’s initial encounter with police obtained by The AFRO shows Black and the boy walking side-by-side prior to being stopped.
After Black fled two White police officers and a civilian subsequently confronted Black at his mother’s home. There they forced him to the ground. Soon thereafter Black became unresponsive and was later pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
The state medical examiner ruled his death an accident. But Cyril Wecht, a noted independent pathologist consulted by the AFRO said he died from positional asphyxiation. Body camera footage shows one of the officers laying his body across Black’s as the 19-year old track star was restrained as he laid on a ramp near his home.
The Caroline County State’s Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute any of the officers involved in Black’s death.
Petyo was indicted last year by the Maryland State Prosecutor’s Officer. They allege he conspired to hide Webster’s use of force complaints from state officials.
Webster had agreed not to seek employment as a police officer in Delaware after he was captured on dashcam footage kicking a Black man in the jaw during an arrest. Webster was indicted for second degree assault, however a Delaware jury acquitted him after a trial in 2015.
Since then a coalition of residents and activists have fought to hold the small Eastern Shore town accountable for Black’s death. Richard Potter, former Talbot County NAACP President and head of The Coalition for Justice for Anton Black says the judge should impose a sentence that reflects the consequences of Petyo’s actions.
“The hiring of Webster and that encounter is the reason why Anton is dead. I’m hoping for a much harsher sentence than just a slap on the wrist,” Potter told the AFRO.
Potter points to the hiring and eventual certification of Webster over the objections of the Black community as a critical moment when the town pivoted to a more aggressive form of policing.
“I think it’s safe to say if Webster is not hired then we are not having this conversation,” Potter said. “I think the sentence should reflect the actual implications of what happened.”