Former Denton cop found guilty of misconduct and malfeasance in office

Former Denton Police Dept. officer Eric Hall was found guilty of misconduct in office during a jury trial in the Caroline County Circuit Court.

DENTON — The former Denton cop found guilty of misconduct and malfeasance in office is set to be sentenced this week.

Eric V. Hall, 42, who was found guilty of the two charges on Oct. 7, is scheduled to be sentenced in the Caroline County Circuit Court on Friday, Dec. 3.

The charges stemmed from a call for a reported assault in Denton in July 2020 to which Hall and several other Denton Police officers responded. Although the officers didn’t know it at the time, the call later turned out to be a homicide investigation for the murder of 30-year-old James Wilmer of Denton.

Upon arriving at the crime scene, Hall was tasked with controlling the crowd of emotional onlookers surrounding Wilmer and searching Wilmer’s body at the request of another DPD officer. Hall was wearing an activated body camera, which captured his search of Wilmer.

The footage showed Hall pulling what appeared to be a crumpled $20 bill out of Wilmer’s pocket and handing it to a bystander — later identified as Wilmer’s friend Nicole Veale — without examining the bill. The footage also showed Veale removing a lanyard with a lighter and a folding orange camouflage knife from Wilmer’s clothes, along with something wrapped in plastic from one of his socks, which she placed on her own body.

Police also found a baggie with several grams of heroin in Wilmer’s shorts after loading him into an ambulance for treatment.

All of the items, except for the plastic items Veale had pulled from Wilmer’s socks, were later recovered by county police.

After several different law enforcement agencies reviewed Hall’s body camera footage from July 1, it became apparent to multiple officers that Hall had mishandled evidence by allowing someone other than a police officer to search Wilmer’s body for possible evidence and handing items found on his body to nearby civilians.

Hall was interviewed by the Caroline County Sheriff’s Office a week after the incident about his actions that day. The recording, which was played in the courtroom during the trial, contained audio of Hall explaining himself as having “poor situational awareness” multiple times and apologizing for it.

Hall was indicted in the Caroline County Circuit Court in August 2020 on charges of misconduct and malfeasance in office, altering physical evidence and obstructing and hindering a police officer. He pleaded not guilty to all charges later that month.

Following a two-day trial in October 2021, a 12-member jury found Hall guilty of misconduct and malfeasance in office after two hours of deliberations. Because the two charges are common law offenses, there is no specific penalty written in state law and a judge can impose any sentence they believe is fair and reasonable.

The case against Jamaine V. Cheers, the man charged with murdering Wilmer, is ongoing. Cheers is scheduled for a plea hearing for murder and firearm charges later in December.

Natalie Jones is a reporter at The Star Democrat in Easton covering crime, health, education and Talbot County Council. You can reach her with questions, comments or tips at njones@chespub.com.

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