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Darcy Costello

Baltimore Sun

January 19, 2024

Maryland’s Appellate Court found this week that there was “substantial evidence” supporting a Maryland State Police trial board’s conclusion that a former Trooper of the Year lied about knowing the location of a traffic stop and made false reports.

As such, the court agreed with Anne Arundel Circuit Court’s previous decision to uphold the trial board’s recommendation and the termination of Kashef Khan.

Khan was fired in 2022 after a trial board found him guilty of two counts of false report, along with unbecoming conduct. It was a swift fall for Khan, who three years earlier was recognized as the agency’s top trooper for performance “above and beyond expectations.”

The former trooper, a Muslim American who grew up in Pakistan, has argued his firing was due to retaliation and racial discrimination. He told The Baltimore Sun last year he wanted the agency’s “‘good ol’ boy’ system and systemic racism gone.”

Khan’s attorney, Clarke Ahlers, said Friday that he is “ashamed, as a Maryland citizen, for the way Maryland State Police treats minority troopers.” He added that he and Khan are “leaning toward” an appeal.

The state police, meanwhile, said in an emailed statement that the agency agrees with the Appellate Court decision: “Integrity, fairness and service are the core values of the department and any individual compromising them undermines the MDSP’s duty to the citizens of Maryland.”

Khan has accused the two internal state police investigators behind the misconduct case of lying under oath. He says the two mischaracterized their second interrogation of him, calling it contentious and saying Khan didn’t answer questions.

Khan has revealed since that he made his own recording of that interrogation — state police say theirs can’t be found, and claim their recorder didn’t make a recording. He says it is evidence of the investigators’ false statements. Part of the proof, Khan says, includes audible beeps in his recording as state police started and stopped the interrogation.

The state police said Friday there is an ongoing administrative investigation into Khan’s two investigators, Sgt. Kristopher Phillips and D/Sgt. Matthew Mann. That probe is being conducted by one state police employee and one employee of the Maryland Capitol Police.

Ahlers, who had requested an independent investigation, said the Capitol Police employee was formerly with the state police.

The matter was investigated previously by the state prosecutor’s office. In a report obtained by The Sun, the office noted its review was “limited,” as some of the investigators’ statements were made during interrogations. A U.S. Supreme Court case, Garrity v. New Jersey, protects police from incriminating themselves in such situations.

The appellate court ruling is a letdown for Khan, who hoped the court would find the trial board recommendation arbitrary. In a brief, Ahlers argued the board disregarded evidence of innocence and drew irrational conclusions.

The judges’ opinion, written by Judge Rosalyn Tang, noted that they have a “narrow” role in reviewing an agency decision — just to determine whether substantial evidence supports the original finding.

It found there was. Evidence, they said, supported the board’s conclusion that Khan knew he was in D.C., not Maryland, at the time of the traffic stop, and that a “reasoning mind” could find he had changed the location in a subsequent report.

Oral arguments held in December largely did not focus on Khan’s other allegations: the missing recording and investigators’ alleged mischaracterizations.

The judges’ opinion makes a passing reference in responding to Ahler’s brief. He had argued state police brought itself into disrepute by “likely” deleting the recording, writing a “provable false and misleading report” and suspending Khan, leading to more than 100 dropped DUI cases.

“The appellant does not explain how MSP’s alleged conduct rendered insubtantial the evidence supporting the board’s conclusions about his conduct,” the opinion said in a footnote. “Thus, we decline to address these points on appeal.”

Khan has said he is one of a group of state police employees seeking class action status in a federal lawsuit alleging the agency discriminates against troopers of color. There is a similar pending U.S. Department of Justice investigation.

The ex-Trooper of the Year said during his trial board hearing that a sergeant told him he wasn’t recognized again the following year because he didn’t have the “complexion for protection,” which he saw as a reference to his race and ethnicity.

“They didn’t want me to be [the] face of MSP for two straight years, so they put me in this mess,” Khan told trial board members.

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