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Lead Detective In Phylicia Barnes Case Faces Charges; Could Jeopardize Other Cases

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Daniel Nicholson
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Derek Valcourt began working at WJZ in September 2002. His first major...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — He was the lead detective investigating the disappearance and murder of 16-year-old Phylicia Barnes. Now a Baltimore City police officer faces criminal charges for his actions while searching for his own missing child.

Derek Valcourt has more on the case against Detective Daniel Nicholson.

He’s been suspended from police work for the last year, but prosecutors acknowledge these charges could jeopardize some of their pending cases against other criminals.

An attorney for Detective Nicholson says he maintains his innocence and did what any parent would do when he realized that his own teenage daughter briefly went missing in April of last year. But police say when Nicholson went looking for her, he forced his way into an apartment of someone she knew, assaulted people inside and later lied to fellow officers about what happened.

“We have a history here of holding individuals accountable and investigating all allegations and that’s exactly what we are doing in this case,” said Anthony Guglielmi, Baltimore City Police.

Nicholson’s misdemeanor charges include two counts of assault, burglary and even lying to fellow police officers. Those charges will now be a factor in court for any criminal case Nicholson investigated, including the high-profile case of Michael Johnson–accused of murdering 16-year-old Phylicia Barnes and then dumping her in the Susquehanna River.

“I really thank Detective Nicholson,” Barnes’ mother, Janice Mustafa said.

Nicholson stood by Phylicia Barnes’ family throughout Johnson’s first trial and conviction, which was later thrown out by a judge. But as Johnson and his defense team now await a second trial, they promise to use the new charges against Nicholson to their advantage.

“What he is is the credibility of the investigation, the face of the investigation. And if the face of the investigation has no credibility, then the investigation itself has no credibility,” said attorney Tony Garcia.

“Judges rely on what officers say. Juries rely on what an officer says and that reliance is just pivotal when you are talking about the administration of justice,” said attorney Russell Neverdon.

The City State’s Attorney’s Office says they don’t know how many cases Nicholson’s charges will impact. They say they will decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not their prosecution of any criminal can proceed without Nicholson’s testimony.

Detective Nicholson’s first court hearing is set for May 20.

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