Former Prince George’s Co. police lieutenant awarded $1.1M after arrest for talking on cellphone

The hands-free cellphone law for drivers in Maryland doesn’t apply to law enforcement. So, after a state trooper pulled a Prince George’s County officer over near National Harbor for being on her phone, she filed suit. And a jury just awarded her more than $1 million.

In May 2019, Lieutenant Alita Gaskill was on her phone driving her unmarked cruiser when a Maryland State Trooper pulled her over. She flashed her lights, indicating she was fellow law enforcement, but eventually got out of her cruiser to talk with him.

“But when he exited his cruiser, he was irate. He was angry and started screaming to the top of his lungs to get back in my car. So, I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it. And then I started to get scared … He came upon me and grabbed me; put my hands, like really aggressive, behind my back, threw me against my car, cuffed me, and pushed me and was like, ‘Get on the ground.’ So of course, I’m like, ‘Oh, my God, like what is happening?'”

Shortly after, another Prince George’s County police officer pulled up, capturing the incident on his dashcam. Despite confirming she was a police officer through her tags and later through identification, state trooper Shareef Lewis arrested Gaskill.

“So, can you can imagine, me, I know my rights. I understand my rights. But, you know … he’s in charge of this situation. And he lied. You know what I mean,” she said.

After her arrest, the department placed the 24-year veteran on suspension and she later retired.

She called that time “awful,” adding, “being suspended … and having to endure that.”

After seeing what she called a false police report, Gaskill filed suit, alleging false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and gross negligence, according to a news release. After a three-day civil trial, a jury found Lewis liable and awarded Gaskill $1.1 million.

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Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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