A former Maryland police K9 handler who served ten years in prison for releasing her a dog on a man believed to be a burglary suspect was among the 29 people who were given pardons or commutations by President Donald Trump on Wednesday.
Stephanie C. Mohr was 30 years old in 2001 when she was convicted of a felony civil rights violation for a September 21, 1995 incident, Business Insider reported.
Mohr deployed her police K9 on Ricardo G. Mendez, a Mexican national, who turned out to be homeless and sleeping on the roof of a business that officers were investigating for a burglary. As a result, the dog bit the man’s leg when he fled from police, Newsmax reported.
“She served 10 years in prison for releasing her K9 partner on a burglary suspect in 1995, resulting in a bite wound requiring ten stitches,” the White House said in a statement about Mohr’s pardon on Wednesday. “Officer Mohr was a highly commended member of the police force prior to her prosecution.”
“Today’s action recognizes that service and the lengthy term that Ms. Mohr served in prison.”
BREAKING: We applaud @realDonaldTrump for pardoning Stephanie Mohr, a former Prince George’s Co. Officer & first female canine handler in the Department’s history.
What happened to Stephanie was unjust & unfair. Thank you, President Trump, for supporting our law enforcement! pic.twitter.com/Sw10OSkSYo
— National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) (@GLFOP) December 24, 2020
Earlier this month, Mohr had appeared on Newsmax to plead her case for a presidential pardon, saying she had been scapegoated.
Mohr said that charges were pressed one day before they were set to expire under the statute of limitations, and that she was targeted because a federal investigation into brutality in the Prince George’s County Police Department failed to result in any other convictions.
Officer Mohr served the maximum 10-year sentence for a civil rights violation after the K9 deployment caused 10 stitches in the man’s calf. She was then just a 24-year-old police rookie.
“I was a very young police officer, riding with my training officer,” she told host John Bachman. “I had to utilize my dog to arrest two suspects that were breaking into a building in the middle of the night.”
She followed departmental procedures in effect at the time, acted on the instructions of her training officer, and no complaints were issued about the “force that was used to make the arrest.”
But, “Five years later, much to my surprise, one day before the statute of limitations was set to expire,” she said, “my training officer and I were indicted by the Department of Justice by the Federal government.”
Officer Mohr, who had a 2-year-old son at home, says she was scapegoated to satisfy The Washington Post after an FBI investigation into alleged brutality by the Prince George’s County Police Department failed to result in any other convictions. Her first trial acquitted her of one charge and ended in a hung jury on the other, but a second trial brought a conviction and the 10-year sentence, Newsmax reported.
“In the second trial, which was nothing like the first – the first trial was all about the facts of the case – the second was basically a character assassination of myself,” Mohr said, noting she was incarcerated for 10 formative years of her then-toddler son’s life.
“Such a harsh sentence,” she continued, noting that year’s average sentence for the same charge was a mere 33 months. “I got 10 years, basically one year for every stitch that the suspect received on his calf.”
Former police officer Stephanie Mohr spent nearly a decade in prison after her K-9 partner bit a suspect. Will President Trump grant her a pardon? HLN’s @LynnSmithTV is #OnTheStory. pic.twitter.com/yxNMOf0EID
— HLN (@HLNTV) February 20, 2020
Mohr was traveling with her parents and partner on Wednesday when she heard she had received a pardon, according to USA Today.
“So many emotions flooding through me. It’s been a long, long, long battle for this. I’m just so grateful,” she told the outlet.
The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and the National Fraternal Order of Police, the biggest police union in the US, helped push for Mohr’s pardon.