Residents of the Eastern shore town say investigators have been asking about the personal lives of officers who the Justice Department says were illegally fired as a criminal trial against the former chief is set to proceed
TAYA GRAHAM, TRNN: This Taya Graham reporting for the Real News Network in Worchester County, Maryland. I’m standing outside the Worchester County Courthouse where two former Pocomoke City officers just heard the last arguments before their trial for misconduct in office. The motions hearing marked the next step in the proceedings since Maryland State prosecutor Emmet Davitt filed charges of misconduct against Kelvin Sewell, the first black police chief of Pocomoke City, a small town on Maryland’s lower eastern shore. Sewell was fired last year amid allegations of racism that rocked this city. 6 months later he filed a lawsuit claiming he was let go in retaliation for refusing to fire 2 black officers who filed discrimination complaints against the Worchester County, drug task force. Now the United States Department of Justice has joined the suit, alleging Pocomoke and the state of Maryland conspired to discriminate and retaliate against Sewell and his subordinates. That hasn’t deterred Davit from pursuing charges against the former Baltimore City Homicide Supervisor and his lieutenant Lynell Green. A case focused upon an accident which occurred in 2014 involving two parked cars. Davitt says Sewell and Greene interfered with an investigation which should’ve resulted in drunk driving charges against a local corrections officer and inside the courtroom, Sewell’s efforts to defend himself made little headway. The judge barred an expert law enforcement witness Sewell enlisted to testify on how much discretion a police officer has during an accident investigation and prevented Sewell from gaining access to disciplinary records of the officers who are expected to testify against him. After the hearing, both Sewell and Greene expressed frustration with the proceedings. KELVIN SEWELL: I do want to say this. Let me say this right here. I do believe in the justice system. I believe in the Worchester County justice system. So, I think if a person is innocent until proven guilty I think we have a fair shot here. A lot of people out here remember me what a good job I did in Pocomoke City was a good job – we did in Pocomoke City. So, I think because of that, they remember what we did and make a fair decision when we finish deliberating. STEPHEN JANIS, TRNN: Well you know I asked the prosecutor when this investigation began, asked him if it happened after the lawsuit. He wouldn’t answer me. Do you think this investigation began after the lawsuit was filed? LYNELL GREEN: Yes. I really do and I’m not going to elaborate on that any further but yes I think so. Because if it was something that was going on, why now? So, that’s just how I feel. I’m tired. We’ve been going through this for almost about 6 months and I’m tired. Really. JANIS: When you say you’re tired, has this taken a toll on you? GREEN: Yes and my family, yes. JANIS: How has it affected you? GREEN: Going home in the evenings and you now my kids they’re adults but they’re thinking of dad why are they saying these bad things about you? You know, we are parents and we’ve been in law enforcement for a long time. There’s no integrity about us. We just do our job and we do it to the best of our ability. We want to help people. Coming here I thought that’s what’s going to happen for us. We make your town better so that you would support us in every way. We came here. In the beginning we had to start putting our feet on the ground fighting from the beginning. Instead of saying okay, having an open mind and we’ll let these two guys come in and do a job effectively, we always had walls. Knock down this wall, here come another wall. It’s time to move forward. GRAHAM: But as the criminal trial unfolds, the Real News learns that efforts to dig into Sewell’s past continue and they are not focused on his work as a cop but on sex. Just last week Pocomoke resident Rev. James Jones was home when a man he did not know appeared in his driveway. The stranger told Jones he was a private investigator working for the state of the Maryland on behalf of the defendants in Sewell’s discrimination lawsuit. And he told Jones he had some shocking news. REV. JAMES JONES: He says I was told, don’t say it was a good source, I don’t say they were reliable source but I had someone to speak to me and they said that Lieutenant Green was the father of your great grandchild. I said let me tell you something, I said, my granddaughter, her mother made a high school mistake like many kids do. But she didn’t even know anything about a Lynell Green when she was expecting to have a child. I said and he is not the father of my great grandchild. I said, what are you telling me Mr. Hewitt? He says reverend, those three were corrupt. Those three, we were talking about Sewell and Green – he says and Savage. They did corrupt things. They were did a good job of cleaning up the streets in the eyes of the public but they’re womanizers. They created problems. You know I said but the city didn’t see it. I said he’s a member of our congregation. And we have the highest praise for him so I mean wherever your information is coming from it’d be a shock to me to see you show evidence of K.D. Sewell being unfaithful in his marriage or discrediting himself with people in the community by doing such a thing. Well it’s pretty much true. I got really upset when he started talking about my great granddaughter. We’re talking about a 3 year old that is the joy of my life. And for you to tell me that my granddaughter who is a third year college student at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and doing quite well at it, a good mother on her own as a single mother, that she’s been with somebody that I called a friend because of what they did in our community. Well you’re going to be hurt then if you feel that way about them, you’re going to be hurt in the end because it’s all going to come out. GRAHAM: It was an accusation that stunned him. Shock that later turned to anger and prompted jones to conclude that the case against Sewell is retaliation and that the Pocomoke officials do not have a legitimate answer to the former Chief’s allegations of racism. JONES: And for everybody out there today, I want to say this. No one but no one from this point on will come to me and say anything discrediting about Kelvin Sewell or his force that he had in place when I know the real guy and know what he’s done for us in our community. When you get to where you’re just scratching and digging and trying to pull up anything you can when you’re putting yourself beneath the mud to try to absorb something to pull something out, extract something so that you can try or attempt to damage someone, you’ve got to have known that you bit off more than you could chew. That you started off on the wrong foot, you didn’t take care of things the way you should have and now your back’s against the wall and I feel strongly that their backs are against the wall. GRAHAM: We called the investigator that declined to comment. For now both sides will have their day in court later this week. For Sewell and Green, the stakes are high. Their lifelong careers as police officers as well as their reputations hang in the balance about a seemingly endless conflict over race and justice in Pocomoke which seems far from over. This is Taya Graham and Stephen Janis reporting for the Real News Network in Snow Hill, Maryland. For Full disclosure, Stephen Janis wrote a book with Kelvin D. Sewell.