Police department is still investigating case
by C. Benjamin Ford | Staff Writer
Gazette Monday, June 14, 2010
Montgomery County police Officer Dina Hoffman was found not guilty of perjury by a jury Friday, but an internal investigation into possible wrongdoing continues, a police spokesman said Monday.
If the investigation concludes that Hoffman violated the department’s rules or policies, she could face administrative discipline, Capt. Paul Starks said. Hoffman has been suspended with pay as she awaited trial, and the department will review whether she should remain suspended now that the trial has concluded, Starks said.
The jury of six men and six women deliberated from Thursday afternoon through late Friday before finding Hoffman not guilty of the perjury charge.
Hoffman, 26, an officer for three years, was accused of perjury after testifying 12 times in a 2009 Montgomery County District Court trial involving a driving under the influence case that a Rockville man had been behind the wheel of a parked car when she approached him.
The defense attorney for George Zaliev, 57, introduced footage from a nearby security camera, however, that showed the man was prone in the backseat of the car with his feet sticking out the open passenger door when Hoffman arrived.
Zaliev, the first witness called at Hoffman’s trial last week, said he had stayed up working all night on a rush job upholstering furniture and had a few beers when he finished. Then, he said, he went outside to get a better signal on a mobile phone to call home to his native country of Georgia.
He then stretched out in the back seat of a friend’s car, waiting for his friend to return to drive him home, and Zaliev, testifying through an interpreter, said he “conked out.”
Hoffman testified that she had made a mistake when she testified in Zaliev’s trial. A deputy with a special alcohol enforcement unit who arrived at the scene put in his report, after talking with Hoffman, that Zaliev had been behind the wheel.
Prosecutors at Hoffman’s trial said the female officer had lied because Zaliev made denigrating comments about women to Hoffman and that Hoffman remembered many other details that were not in the other officer’s report.
“She lied under oath to make an innocent man look guilty,” said Howard County Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Furlong in his closing arguments Thursday. Zaliev should never have been charged with DUI because Hoffman found him in the backseat of the car, Furlong said.
Hoffman’s attorney, Louis M. Leibowitz, said during his closing argument that Hoffman had no reason to intentionally lie and gained no benefit from Zaliev’s arrest. Her supervisors had never had problems with her, and she erred because she was involved in many traffic stops, Leibowitz said.