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Stay lifted in Baltimore police internal affairs records dispute

The Court of Special Appeals has lifted a temporary stay requested by a Baltimore police sergeant of a criminal trial after finding the officer does not have standing to ask the court to review the circuit court’s decision allowing him to be questioned about his internal affairs records.

Sgt. Joseph Donato requested and received the stay last week as Deandre Spencer was set to go to trial on drug and firearms offenses.

A Baltimore City Circuit judge had ruled in an open hearing prior to the trial that Donato could be cross-examined about several internal affairs complaints for the purpose of impeachment. Donato appealed, arguing he should not be subject to questioning about internal complaints resolved in his favor or those that were not related to his truthfulness.

After initially granting the stay, the Court of Special Appeals vacated it Monday because Donato has never filed a motion in the circuit court case and has no standing to appeal. A non-party may appeal a ruling on such a motion, according to the order, but the pleadings do not reflect that he filed any motion to prevent his cross-examination.

Spencer is one of a group of defendants who successfully petitioned to have Donato’s internal affairs records be discoverable. Last month, a judge ruled 33 of 35 internal affairs records were discoverable.

In their motion objecting to the stay, attorneys from the Maryland Office of the Public Defender argued Donato had an interest in whether his records were disclosed and could have filed a motion to quash or sought a declaratory judgment.

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