(May 17, 2019) Former Pocomoke City Police Chief Kelvin Sewell was summoned back before a jury in Worcester County Circuit Court this week and was, once again, found guilty of misconduct in office stemming from a vehicular collision in November 2014.
Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt said the two-day trial wrapped up on Wednesday, with the jury returning the guilty verdict at about 4:30 p.m., with a sentencing date still to be scheduled.
Davitt said the state is gratified with the verdict for a case that was remanded back to circuit court after the Maryland Court of Special Appeals rescinded the original guilty conviction from December 2016.
“We feel this case has been mischaracterized by some members of the media,” he said.
Davitt said what some described as a “minor fender bender” was in fact a serious accident, where responding officers’ attempts to investigate were subverted.
In December 2016, a jury convicted Sewell of misconduct in office, but cleared him of conspiracy charges, with Judge W. Newton Jackson III sentencing Sewell to three years of supervised probation, but suspending a three-year jail term.
The conviction was later overturned by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, who found the trial judge had prevented Sewell from introducing expert witnesses on “untenable grounds,” and the case was remanded for a new trial in Worcester Circuit Court.
Sewell, who served as Pocomoke Police Chief from 2011 until being relived of duties in June 2015, was initially indicted in July 2016 on charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct and misconduct in office.
The misdemeanor charges stemmed from allegations that Sewell and former Pocomoke Police Lt. Lynell Green, who was also indicted on misconduct charges, intervened to curtail a hit-and-run investigation in November 2014 involving an acquaintance, Doug Matthews, who was a fellow member of the Masonic Lodge in Pocomoke.
Matthews, who was employed as a state correctional officer, reportedly fell asleep while returning home from the Pocomoke Union Lodge and struck two unoccupied parked cars.
According to Matthews, after the collision he continued a short distance to his residence, despite losing a wheel in the dust up, and opted to contact Green, who responded to the home and was later joined by Sewell.
During the trial, former Pocomoke Police Officer Tonya Barnes, who was the investigating officer, claimed Sewell interfered when she attempted to interview Matthews.
Barnes said Sewell instructed her to record the incident as an accident, not a hit and run, as the damaged vehicles were unoccupied and no persons were injured.
Prior to the misconduct trial, Sewell had filed a federal complaint of racial discrimination in March 2015 against the police department. In June, the complaint was amended to include the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office.
After the Pocomoke City Council fired Sewell as police chief on June 29, 2015, the EEOC complaint was amended to include wrongful termination.
In April 2016, the EEOC determined reasonable cause existed to accept that Sewell was “subjected to harassment in retaliation for protected activity[,]” and “discharged in retaliation for protected activity.”
Prior to Sewell’s misconduct trial in December 2016, he joined Green and another former Pocomoke City Police Officer Franklin Savage, in a lawsuit against the town, state and county for Title VII violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, to which the U.S. Department of Justice also signed on.
In March, Pocomoke reached a settlement with the plaintiffs.