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Former Eastern Shore police chief sentenced to probation in misconduct retrial

Former Pocomoke City Police Chief Kelvin Sewell received a three-year suspended sentence Tuesday after being retried for misconduct in office.

Sewell was convicted of one count of misconduct May 15 for protecting a fellow Masonic lodge member suspected of impaired driving by interfering with and obstructing the investigation, according to a news release from the Maryland Office of the State Prosecutor.

Worcester County Circuit Judge W. Newton Jackson III sentenced Sewell to three years in prison, fully suspended, and three years of supervised probation.

“We are extremely gratified that Judge Jackson devoted so much time and careful attention to our sentencing and we are very gratified by the results,” Sewell’s attorney, Barry Coburn, said.

In a sentencing memorandum to the court, posted to the State Prosecutor’s website Tuesday, the state said evidence at trial showed a driver had hit a parked car with such force it was totaled. Sewell ordered a subordinate to document a collision as an accident rather than a hit and run or impaired driving incident. The officers who responded to the scene testified that they would have performed field sobriety tests if allowed to investigate.

“The verdict in this case upholds one of the most basic principles of American justice — that our laws be enforced without partiality of prejudiced,” State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said in a prepared statement.

The state was seeking six months of active jail time, alleging Sewell obstructed justice prior to the trial, according to Coburn, of Coburn & Greenbaum PLLC in Washington.

“They have asserted very aggressively that our client committed obstruction of justice,” Coburn said. “Of course, we strenuously disagree and moreover that was not the subject of his trial, as Judge Jackson observed.”

In the sentencing memorandum, the state claimed Sewell took steps to discredit a witness after the Court of Special Appeals remanded his case last year. Sewell’s attorney sent a letter alleging a witness for the state had told him she lied during her testimony at the trial and later provided an affidavit from someone who said he witnessed the exchange.

The state said Sewell and the man who signed the affidavit lied and “created a document littered with false information to undermine the credibility of a witness for the State and to undermine the fair administration of justice.”

In the defense sentencing memorandum, Sewell pointed out that he was being sentenced for one common law misdemeanor and was critical of the state for focusing its argument on alleged obstruction of justice with no accompanying exhibits or proof. Sewell and his attorney called the allegation “baseless” and said the state is trying to craft a conspiracy to obstruct where none existed.

Sewell was initially convicted in 2016, but the conviction was reversed on appeal because of the judge’s decision to exclude proposed expert testimony.

The first black police chief on the Eastern Shore, Sewell, and two other former members of the police department, filed a federal lawsuit alleging race discrimination in 2016. The department agreed to partially resolve the litigation by entering a consent decree in March and agreeing to pay Sewell and one of the other plaintiffs a combined $650,000 in damages.

The case is State of Maryland v. Kelvin Michael Sewell, 23-K-15-000516.

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