Baltimore police officer charged with assault and misconduct

Christina Tkacik, July 3, 2018, The Baltimore Sun

A Baltimore police officer has been suspended without pay after being charged by the State’s Attorney’s office with first-degree assault and misconduct in office, according to police spokesman T.J. Smith.

Officer Carlos Rivera-Martinez was charged Wednesday for an alleged 2016 incident, according to online records.

“He is being moved to a suspended-without-pay status per the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights,” police spokesman T.J. Smith said.

In a statement, Melba Saunders, spokeswoman for the State’s Attorney, said the office is eager to restore the public’s faith in the criminal justice system. “Today’s indictment is indicative of that fact and a strong reminder that we will pursue justice fairly and equally no matter an individual’s race, gender, creed, or occupation,” she said.

Rivera-Martinez was also named as the officer involved in an unrelated shooting Jan. 22.

More details were not immediately available. No lawyer was listed for Rivera-Martinez.

 

Christina Tkacik, July 3, 2018, The Baltimore Sun, “Baltimore police officer charged with assault and misconduct”, https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-ci-carlos-martinez-20180703-story.html

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Baltimore OKs $9M settlement to man wrongly convicted of murder, sparking clash between council president, FOP

Luke Broadwater, The Baltimore Sun, May 2, 2018

Baltimore’s spending panel approved a $9 million settlement on Wednesday with a man who was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent 20 years in prison before DNA evidence cleared his name a decade ago.

The amount agreed to be paid to James Owens is the largest settlement from the city in a case involving alleged police misconduct, officials said.

“Anyone who spends 21 years in jail unfairly deserves compensation,” said Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, who controls a majority of votes on the Board of Estimates, which voted unanimously for the payment.

At a news conference in downtown Baltimore, lawyers representing Owens passed out a statement that said the settlement “brings to a close a long and painful chapter in Mr. Owens’ life.”

Owens did not appear at the news conference and, through his lawyers, declined to comment, except to say that “no amount of money can give me back the time that I lost.”

The settlement sparked harsh words between City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and the city’s police union. In approving the funds, Young railed against the amount of money taxpayers are paying out over police lawsuits, and he suggested that the union should pick up some of the costs.

“I’m not happy about it,” Young said.

He cited the $6.4 million settlement in the death of Freddie Gray and argued that police are costing the city too much money.

“I’m not saying [Owens] shouldn’t get some money, but I do think FOP should be party to this settlement,” Young said. “That money should come out of their funds. I’m tired of all these funds coming out of the taxpayers of Baltimore City. Nine million dollars could go a long way toward rec centers, towards jobs for our youth. I’m tired of it.”

The Baltimore police union responded to Young’s comments Wednesday, criticizing him as someone who “does not support the work done by the men and women of the Baltimore Police Department.”

“While we agree with President Young that $9M is a lot of money, we have never been able to fathom why the City Board of Estimates continues to pay these exorbitant settlements,” the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3 wrote on Twitter.

Owens was charged in the 1987 robbery, rape and murder of Colleen Williar, a 24-year-old phone company employee and college student, in her Southeast Baltimore home.

According to court records, Owens came under suspicion when a neighbor of Williar’s, James Thompson, told police he found a knife outside Williar’s apartment and retrieved it on behalf of Owens, a friend.

Police found no physical evidence to link Owens to the crime but charged him on the basis of Thompson’s statement. Owens, now 57, was convicted of murder in 1988 and had spent 21 years in custody before he was freed in 2008.

He sued the city three years later, alleging that investigators pressured a key witness and that police and prosecutors intentionally suppressed information that might have helped him defend himself.

Lawyers representing Owens alleged that the Baltimore Police Department homicide detectives who investigated the murder failed to disclose such so-called exculpatory evidence. The suit named as defendants the city, the police department and the State’s Attorney’s Office. It also named individual police officers Gary Dunnigan, Jay Landsman and Thomas Pellegrini and prosecutor Marvin Brave.

Thompson changed his story about the crime several times, and detectives continued to interrogate Thompson until he settled on a story that involved him watching Owens rape and murder Williar, according to Owens’ lawyers.

A sample of semen saved from the case was tested for DNA in 2006, winning Owens a new trial. Prosecutors eventually dropped the charges against him.

“The American system of justice only works when police reveal all the evidence, even evidence that contradicts their belief regarding who committed a crime,” said Andrew D. Freeman, one of Owens’ lawyers. “This settlement should remind all law enforcement officers of the consequences of failing to turn over exculpatory information.”

City lawyers said that even though they were settling the case “the Baltimore City Police Department and the detectives who have been sued in this action dispute virtually all of the material facts alleged by Mr. Owens.”

Luke Broadwater, The Baltimore Sun, May 2, 2018, “Baltimore OKs $9M settlement to man wrongly convicted of murder, sparking clash between council president, FOP”, https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-settlement-young-20180502-story.html

Sent undercover to investigate Maryland prostitutes, he was tipping them off to police activity instead, prosecutors say

By Lynh Bui, April 27, 2018

A former undercover officer accused of tipping off a prostitute to planned law enforcement activity and interfering with police investigations in Maryland was sentenced to one year of probation Friday.

William E. Diaz, 37, was a member of the Prince George’s County gang unit when he had sex with prostitutes and alerted one woman on at least two occasions to when police would be in her area, according to prosecutors.

Diaz pleaded guilty in October to misconduct in office and conspiracy to commit prostitution.

At his sentencing hearing in Prince George’s County Circuit Court, Diaz said he engaged in the misconduct because the hours on the job were taking a toll on his life and he was “in need of attention” at home.

“I veered off the straight-and-narrow path and I’m paying for my consequences,” said Diaz, who has since left the police department.

Judge Herman C. Dawson also ordered Diaz to perform 150 hours of community service, 100 hours more than what was recommended in the plea agreement struck by prosecutors and Diaz’s attorney, Christina Caron-Moroney.

Assistant State’s Attorney Doyle L. Niemann had asked that Diaz spend at least some weekends in jail due to the serious nature of the case but the judge said his hands were tied, given the demands of the plea agreement and state sentencing guidelines.

Diaz’s actions “went fundamentally against an oath he has taken and his duty as a police officer,” Niemann said.

Text messages from Diaz’s phone showed he asked a woman in March 2016 about where she was working that week, according to prosecutors. She sent an address and he responded in Spanish, “Well, they’ll be in the area,” according to prosecutors during Diaz’s plea hearing in October. A similar exchange had occurred earlier that month, prosecutors said.

Diaz’s actions interfered with police investigations, allowed targets to evade capture and created a “significant risk for danger to the officers involved in those investigations,” prosecutors said.

Caron-Moroney said her client has already faced heavy consequences from his arrest, which upended his 10-year police career and has jeopardized his marriage.

Though Diaz was a police officer and is held to a higher standard, Caron-Moroney said “he is human, and all humans make mistakes.”

“He was put in a position of temptation when he was in a bad point in his marriage,” Caron-Moroney said.

Diaz was charged in 2017 after the police department learned of the case and brought the allegations to the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office for review.

Lynh Bui, April 27, 2018, Washington Post, “Sent undercover to investigate Maryland prostitutes, he was tipping them off to police activity instead, prosecutors say”, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/sent-undercover-to-investigate-prostitutes-he-was-tipping-them-off-to-police-activity-instead-prosecutors-say/2018/04/27/ccec6bde-4a3b-11e8-9072-f6d4bc32f223_story.html?utm_term=.b990757cd875

Paradigm Shift: City Now Forcing Bad Cops to Pay Victims Out of Their OWN POCKETS—Not Taxpayers

In cases where cops are proven to have acted with malice, the taxpayers will no longer be held liable. Instead, the criminal cops will have their wages garnished until they pay it all back.

One of the most corrupt policies in place to protect police officers who commit violence in the line of duty is the legal protection that comes when a victim files a lawsuit against an aggressive cop. When a victim of a police assault wins a lawsuit against the police department, the city’s taxpayers are usually on the hook for the restitution fees. However, a new policy change in Baltimore—which will set a revolutionary precedent—will finally have the guilty officers feeling the pain in their pockets for once.

In a memo sent out by police union president Gene Ryan this week, Baltimore City officers were warned about how they could be charged with punitive damage if a jury finds that they acted with malice during an attack on a citizen.

The email stated that:

Many of our officers are sued for monetary damages by individuals they have arrested or have come in contact with.  These lawsuits allege wrongdoing on the part of the officer and oftentimes allege that the officer acted with malice.  Malice means that the officer’s alleged actions were motivated by a personal hatred towards the individual suing him or her.  If the person suing the officer wins on the question of whether the officer committed a wrong, the Plaintiff can recover monetary damages to compensate him or her for any injury and/or expenses incurred resulting from the officer’s actions.  If a jury finds that the officer acted with malice, the jury has the option to award punitive damages which are designed to punish the officer and to serve as a deterrent to the officer not to repeat the alleged wrongful conduct found to have occurred by the jury.

Most times, the officer who is being sued will dispute the allegations made by a Plaintiff and successfully defend a claim for punitive damages. However, many juries award punitive damages despite the lack of evidence of malice even in cases where the police officer has not been charged criminally and been found to have acted within the scope of his/her duties consistent with the rules and regulations of the Baltimore Police Department. In the past, the City of Baltimore has generally supported the officers by paying punitive damages as well as the compensatory damages awarded for the actual injury.  Since Andre Davis has been named as our new City Solicitor, he has adopted a policy of not paying any punitive damages despite the fact that the Police Officer has been found to have acted appropriately by the office of the State’s Attorney as well as the Baltimore Police Department.

What this means is that police officers are now required to pay these punitive damage awards, which can amount to thousands of dollars, out of their own pockets.  Since punitive damages cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, the successful citizen can file an attachment against your wages taking 25% of your net bi-weekly paycheck until the amount of the punitive judgment is satisfied.

Please keep this in mind as you go about performing your duties.

The email was leaked to Baltimore crime journalist Justin Fenton for The Baltimore Sun, who posted the following tweet on Tuesday.

City Solicitor Andre M. Davis responded to the leaked email on Wednesday by saying that the union was lying and that this policy has been in place for decades.

Former City Solicitor George Nilson has confirmed this, saying “In the past, the city law department has appropriately refused to pay malice judgments.”

Davis pointed out that the Local Government Tort Claims Act doesn’t require local governments to pay punitive damages for police officers but most local bureaucrats go along doing so anyway without question.

“The statement was flatly wrong in several respects and deeply misleading in other respects. The statute reflects the ordinary common sense notion that if government employees are told that no matter how badly they misbehave, no matter how maliciously they inflict harm or injuries on their fellow citizens, their employer will pay for that harm, then we can expect an increase in such harm. Employees, including police officers who, no doubt have the most difficult job in government, are not privileged to inflict gratuitous injury on others without also incurring personal consequences.” Davis told WBAL.

Davis also took issue with the fact that the email stated that officers are charged without evidence, which is an obviously false claim considering that police are held to a much lower standard than average citizens in the US legal system.

“Instead of speaking out forcefully to encourage FOP members to police in a professional and constitutional manner, as the Commissioner-Designate [Darryl De Sousa] has promised will be his guiding light, and as the federal court consent decree mandates the Police Department to achieve, the FOP leadership’s message seems to be an attempt to dissuade officers from continuing to do their challenging jobs in good faith reliance on the City’s contractual and state law obligation to protect them from baseless lawsuits. This is unfortunate and troubling. Nevertheless, the Law Department will always stand with our officers and give them the legal defense, counsel, and such additional training as may be needed so that they remain on the constitutional side of urban policing in the twenty-first century at all times,” Davis said.

The Baltimore Sun reported that as many as nine Baltimore police officers could have to pay tens of thousands of dollars in damages for recent cases where they found guilty of attacking someone with malice. These cases are reportedly what provoked this recent tantrum from the police union.

What It Takes to Actually Convict Police of Misconduct

Officers involved in fatal incidents keep getting acquitted, but a team of Baltimore cops who stole from suspects and taxpayers alike during a years-long criminal spree are facing serious jail time.

A Baltimore Police car passes a mural of Freddie Gray.
A Baltimore Police car passes a mural of Freddie Gray. Steve Ruark / AP
 David A. Graham,
 

Something amazing happened over the course of a recent trial in Baltimore: Witnesses laid out the way that the city’s Gun Trace Task Force acted as a de facto criminal gang, but with the advantages of a police badge and the power of the state. Officers assigned to the unit robbed hundreds of thousands of dollars from drug dealers, pocketing the money. They targeted cars for searches based on makes and models, and stopped adult black men just for carrying backpacks. They drove at groups of men and detained anyone who ran. They bilked taxpayers by charging for fraudulent overtime.

On Monday, something even more amazing happened. Two officers were convicted of racketeering and robbery charges in federal court. They joined six others who had already pleaded guilty. Stories of police misconduct have become bracingly common in recent years, but convictions have remained rare. The failure to convict any Baltimore officer in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray is the obvious contrast, but similar cases all over the country, from Tamir Rice to Eric Garner to Daniel Shaver, have also ended without convictions.

What lessons do the convictions in Baltimore teach about policing the police? The glaring answer is that the American justice system sometimes puts property ahead of humanity. Steal a black life and you can get off in court; steal a couple hundred grand and the long arm of the law will come for you. It’s hard to argue with this explanation, but there are more complex takeaways as well.

One difference is that in the case of the Gun Trace Task Force, there was no plausible way for the defendants to argue that what they were doing was part of police work. When people are killed in incidents with officers, officers are rarely charged. When they are charged, they are rarely convicted. Juries and judges tend to grant police wide leeway in their actions, wary of second-guessing split-second decisions made while (ostensibly) guaranteeing public safety. If an officer says that he believed his life was in danger when he shot a suspect, prosecutors and courts have often been loath to conclude otherwise—even when many other people see a clear injustice. Police who are hauled up in court are also often able to claim they were following departmental mores. In the Gray case, for example, officers acknowledged not strapping Gray into a police van, but successfully convinced the court that this was standard operating procedure.

By contrast, it’s tough to construe taking fat stacks of cash out of safes and divvying them up (or in the case of one officer who pleaded guilty and testified against his colleagues, dumping it in the woods out of a guilty conscience) as somehow doing one’s job.

The prosecutor’s work was made easier by the six officers who pleaded guilty, but those pleas are also a sign of the strength of the case against them. Detectives Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor, who were convicted Monday, will face up to 60 years in prison. The other six face maximum sentences ranging from 20 to 40 years.

Even though the Gun Trace Task Force convictions represent a victory for police accountability where the Gray convictions ended in failure, there is a connection between the two cases. Gray’s death, and the massive, stunning Department of Justice report that followed it, illuminated a pattern of egregious civil-rights violations by the Baltimore Police Department. The Gun Trace Task Force case does the same, showing how the group targeted black men in particular and violated constitutional processes for detention and arrest. The history of rough rides in Baltimore and the task-force racket both stem from the same lack of accountability, lawlessness, and systemic racism, and they both result in the same broken relationship between police and people that plagues Baltimore, as well as many other cities.

Monday’s convictions don’t produce justice for Gray, but they do strike at some of the same root problems. Notably, the convictions came out of a federal prosecution, in contrast to the Gray case, which was handled by the city prosecutor. “Beyond the guilty verdict and prior guilty pleas in this case, it’s time to talk about what comes next for the city of Baltimore,” Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement. “This corruption went on unabated for nearly 10 years and was only brought to light as a result of a federal investigation.”

From the Justice Department report to the Gun Trace Task Force convictions, the federal government has proved an important force in police reform. But under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the department has switched its focus, pulling back from accountability efforts and offering local law enforcement a more sympathetic hand. That probably isn’t a good omen for future cases. If the police in the United States are to be reformed, the question of what crimes produce convictions is important, but so is the question of who is prosecuting the cases.

 

David A. Graham, “What It Takes to Actually Convict Police of Misconduct”, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/what-it-takes-to-actually-convict-police-of-misconduct/553163/

Jury deliberates in Baltimore police corruption case

In this October 2016 photo released by the Baltimore police, officers, Det. Evodio Hendrix, Det. Marcus Taylor, Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, Det. Jemell Rayam, Det. Maurice Ward, from left, are seen in Baltimore. Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys are set to make their…

BALTIMORE (AP) — Jurors started deliberating Thursday in a case involving one of the worst U.S. police corruption scandals in recent memory after hearing nearly three weeks of testimony from drug dealers, a crooked bail bondsman and disgraced Baltimore detectives who detailed astonishing levels of police misconduct.

The two detectives on trial face robbery, extortion and racketeering charges that could land them up to life in prison if convicted. The trial in a federal courthouse has been dominated by testimony of four ex-detectives who worked alongside the defendants in an elite unit known as the Gun Trace Task Force.

Those former detectives pleaded guilty to corruption charges about their time on the squad, which was once praised as a group of hard-charging officers chipping away at the tide of illegal guns on city streets. They testified on behalf of the government in the hopes of shaving years off their prison sentences.

The former law enforcers testified that the unit was actually made up of thugs with badges who broke into homes, stole cash, resold looted narcotics and lied under oath to cover their tracks. Wearing lockup jumpsuits, the ex-detectives admitted to everything from armed home invasions to staging fictitious crime scenes and routinely defrauding their department with bogus overtime claims.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise described the two detectives on trial as “hunters” who “preyed upon the weak and the vulnerable” when their rogue police unit wasn’t scouring the city trying to find large-scale drug dealers to rob. He said the evidence, which included calls recorded by the FBI that captured their voices, was “overwhelming.”

Defense attorney Jenifer Wicks delivered a fiery closing argument on behalf of Detective Marcus Taylor. She told jurors the government went to the “depths of the criminal underworld” to find a parade of “professional liars” as witnesses.

“It’s deplorable and it’s nauseating,” Wicks said, asserting there was insufficient evidence to convict Taylor of anything.

In a rebuttal, Wise said investigators did indeed tour the unsavory depths of Baltimore’s underworld – and it was there they found Taylor and Detective Daniel Hersl.

Hersl’s lead attorney, William Purpura, did not deny that his 48-year-old client took money — an act that “embarrassed” the city and the detective’s family — but that didn’t rise to charges of robbery or extortion.

He attacked the veracity of the four disgraced detectives, noting that they’ve admitted to lying for years to juries, judges, colleagues and their families.

“They want that ‘get out of jail free’ card,” Purpura said during his closing arguments.

The detectives on trial did not testify.

The out-of-control unit’s onetime supervisor, Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, also did not testify. Jenkins was portrayed as a wildly corrupt officer leading his unit on a tireless quest to shake down citizens and locate “monsters” – bigtime drug dealers with lots of loot to rob.

His subordinates testified that he occasionally posed as a federal agent, encouraged his officers to keep BB guns to plant as weapons, and kept duffel bags in his police car with grappling hooks, ski masks even a machete to ramp up their illegal activities.

In mid-November, a Philadelphia police officer became the ninth law enforcement agent indicted in the federal investigation. Prosecutors allege he conspired with task force member Jemell Rayam to sell heroin and cocaine seized in Baltimore.

It’s not clear when the ex-detectives who pleaded guilty will be sentenced by a federal judge.

The ongoing federal investigation speaks to a dark side of police authority in Baltimore at a delicate time for the beleaguered department.

A monitoring team is overseeing court-ordered reforms as part of a federal consent decree reached between Baltimore and the U.S. Justice Department due to discriminatory and unconstitutional policing. The mid-Atlantic city is also fresh off a new annual per-capita homicide record as the starkly divided city had 343 killings in 2017, roughly 56 killings per 100,000 people.

Even public defenders, who routinely question police testimony, were shocked by the sordid revelations exposed at the trial, saying there could be a few thousand tainted cases stretching back to 2008. So far, roughly 125 cases involving the eight indicted Baltimore law enforcers have been dropped.

“This was an ongoing criminal enterprise for many years,” said Debbie Katz Levi, head of special litigation for Baltimore’s Office of the Public Defender. “We don’t believe that that this was merely a rogue unit, but rather a symbol of a flawed culture in need of serious reform.”

The jury asked two questions Thursday but did not reach a decision. They will return Monday.

 

Federal Trial Unravels Years of Police Corruption in Baltimore

Coming up on today’s show:

  • Closing arguments are scheduled to begin today in the federal corruption trial of two Baltimore police officers. This week, new revelations emerged in the case: On Monday, a convicted detective testified that he used to steal money with Det. Sean Suiter, who was killed a day before he was set to testify before a federal grand jury in November. The Takeaway gets the latest on the trial from Jayne Miller, an investigative reporter with WBAL-TV. And Kathryn Frey-Balter, a former Maryland public defender, joins to discuss how police corruption in Baltimore reflects larger systemic injustices in our country and culture.
  • This week, the Supreme Court denied a request by Pennsylvania Republicans to stay a ruling ordering the state to redraw its congressional districts for the 2018 elections. That leaves lawmakers with just days to get a new map through the legislature; if they fail, the courts will draw the map instead. Emily Bazelon, a staff writer for the New York Times Magazine, provides a look at what this all means for Pennsylvania — and what it could mean for other states — ahead of 2018.
  • On Tuesday, the House passed a pair of measures intended to revamp the way sexual harassment complaints are handled in Congress. One is a bill that includes a provision requiring lawmakers to pay for workplace misconduct settlements involving their personal liability. Elana Schor, a congressional reporter for Politico, explains what these changes could mean for a process that has been shown to be out-of-date, difficult-to-navigate, and deters people from coming forward.
  • Amtrak is experiencing record high ridership, but the rail service has had a number of fatal accidents over the past few months. The incidents raise questions about investment in infrastructure, and whether the safety of passengers and crew is being prioritized by Amtrak. Bart Jansen, a transportation reporter for USA Today, separates myth from reality when it comes to passenger safety, and gives us a sense of what Amtrak might do next to improve its record.
  • Beginning in April, Israel plans to start deporting tens of thousands of African migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, if they do not meet a deadline to leave the country. The government has already pushed tens of thousands of people out, but 40,000 still remain. Now an intense liberal backlash is emerging to the plan to expel those who’ve stayed, with a message that Israel shouldn’t be turning anyone away. Ilan Lior, an immigration correspondent for Haaretz, explains the situation.
  • Every week this month, we’re teaming up with PRI’s podcast, “The Science of Happiness,” for a look at the research behind what can make us happy and successful. For this installment, we focus on an exercise called “Three Good Things.” That’s the practice of writing down and reflecting on three good things that happened to you during the day. Host Dacher Keltner’s “happiness guinea pig” for this episode is freelance journalist Shuka Kalantari. Dacher discusses Shuka’s experience trying out the exercise, and explains psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky’s thoughts about how and why the exercise actually works.

 

“Federal Trial Unravels Years of Police Corruption in Baltimore”, https://www.wnyc.org/story/the-takeaway-2018-02-07/

More alleged victims of Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force come forward, say authorities failed to intervene

Some of the alleged victims of the Gun Trace Task Force speak out about their experiences being targeted by those officers at a press conference held by defense attorney Ivan Bates.

Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

Jamal Walker remembers his own encounter with corrupt Baltimore Police officer Wayne Jenkins, nearly seven years before the officer’s arrest for robbing citizens under the guise of drug investigations.

Walker said he was sitting in his vehicle in East Baltimore, when Jenkins and a partner asked him to get out. They said they smelled marijuana, though Walker said he wasn’t smoking. Inside the vehicle, Walker said he had $40,000 in cash destined for the bank. Only $20,000 was reported seized, he and his attorney say.

Prosecutors dropped the criminal charges months later, a common occurrence with Jenkins’ cases even before he was under criminal indictment.

Walker and his wife were among a group of people gathered at a news conference Friday who said authorities enabled the Gun Trace Task Force officers by failing to stop them.

“The more it went on, the worse it got,” Walker said. He said the officers thought “like cowboys — we do what we want to do. … until they did too much.”

The alleged victims were brought together by defense attorney Ivan Bates, who is running for Baltimore State’s Attorney against Marilyn J. Mosby. Bates said he has represented about 20 people who were arrested by Jenkins, including two who have testified at the federal racketeering trial of two Gun Trace Task Force officers that continues next week.

Jenkins has pleaded guilty to committing several robberies and providing stolen drugs to an associate to resell. He is one of six officers to plead guilty in the case.

Bates said Jenkins’ questionable policing was apparent in each case, but police and prosecutors failed to intervene. He called on prosecutors to reverse convictions of those arrested by the officers, and take others off probation.

“We cannot move on and make change unless we really acknowledge the problem,” Bates said.

The event took on political overtones given Bates’ ambitions. Those who spoke all discussed a “need for change,” with several touting Bates’ candidacy.

Mosby dismissed the criticisms.

“I realize this is campaign season for those seeking elected office and over the next few months, I fully understand that my administration will be attacked; and while people are entitled to their own opinion, they are certainly not entitled to their own facts,” she said in a statement. “There is no question as to my willingness to hold everyone accountable when they run afoul of the law. It is clear that under my administration, there is one standard of justice for everyone in Baltimore City and we will continue enforce it.”

But former deputy public defender Natalie Finegar, now a private defense attorney who appeared at Bates’ event, said Mosby’s office was shirking accountability.

“They not only turned their backs on the possibility that these officers were doing horrible things and violating the law — they actually encouraged it by letting these officers get away with things time after time after time,” Finegar said.

She displayed an internal memo from January 2016, after Det. Jemell Rayam, who has admitted to a decade’s worth of crimes, was admonished by a Circuit Court judge. She said prosecutors “continued to prosecute [Rayam’s] cases, continued to fight the disclosure of records.”

Deborah Katz Levi, an assistant public defender, on Friday offered another example. She said prosecutors tried to use as a witness Officer Sharod Watson, who is under investigation by the Police Department after falsely claiming he surveilled a drug suspect for 18 months when the man was incarcerated for 12 of those months. Though The Sun reported that Watson was under investigation, Levi said prosecutors did not disclose the investigation to defense attorneys as they are required to.

Levi was not a participant in Bates’ event, but leads an initiative by the public defender’s office to track police misconduct.

At Bates’ law office, Andre Crowder, wearing a “Cherry Hill” chain around his neck, said he had been wrongly pulled over in 2016 by four officers from the gun unit. Three of them have pleaded guilty in the racketeering case.

Crowder, 30, said he was driving in a dark area with tinted windows, but the officers claimed he was pulled over for a seat belt violation and searched his car, finding a gun. He claims $10,000 was taken later during a search of his home.

He was jailed for three days before he could post bail. During that time, his 3-year-old son passed away.

“It’s bigger than the charge they put on me,” he said. “The mark they put on my record, the cash that was took, all of that, it doesn’t matter, because I wasn’t there to spend the last moments of my son’s life with him because of this situation…

“If we can’t trust the police, who can we trust? If we can’t trust the state’s attorney’s office to make sure the police are doing their job, who can we trust?” Crowder said.

Jovonne Walker, whose husband was arrested by Jenkins and Sgt. Keith Gladstone in 2010, said the officers came to her home and tried to force their way inside. She set off the alarm system, calling other officers to the scene. Gladstone, who retired from the department shortly after the gun task force indictments, has not been charged with a crime.

“That’s not something a mother of three, a wife, a college graduate, wants to go through,” Walker said. “I’m glad our voices are being heard, so that everybody can understand that all the people who’ve been arrested, they’re not bad people. … There’s another side of the story.”

Shawn Whiting, a man who testified at the Gun Trace Task Force trial under immunity, said “there’s definitely more police out there” committing abuses who should be exposed.

“Everybody thinks this is over,” Whiting said. “This ain’t over. This has just begun.”

Justin Fenton, February 2, 2018, The Baltimore Sun, More alleged victims of Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force come forward, say authorities failed to intervene, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-ci-bates-gttf-victims-20180202-story.html

FBI had recording device in police car when Baltimore gun unit fled scene of crash after chase

Justin Fenton, January 30, 2018, The Baltimore Sun

A convicted former Baltimore police detective broke down on the witness stand Tuesday when asked about an incident in which the FBI secretly recorded members of the Gun Trace Task Force as they fled the scene of a car crash and spoke of falsifying their time sheets to make it seem that they were never there.

Former Detective Jemell Rayam said the officers had chased the car that got hit.

“It was bad. It was a bad accident,” Rayam said.

Turning to the jury, he said: “It could’ve been any one of us, any one of you; my mother, my father.”

The FBI hid a microphone inside their vehicle, and jurors on Tuesday heard the recording as Rayam returned to the stand on the fourth day of testimony in the federal racketeering trials of fellow officers Daniel Hersl and Marcus Taylor.

Rayam, who has pleaded guilty to federal racketeering charges, is one of four officers cooperating with the government and testifying in hopes of reducing their sentences.

Rayam’s plea agreement outlined several crimes in the past few years, but in interviews with the FBI and on the witness stand he has admitted that his crimes stretched back at least nine years.

Among them, Rayam admitted Tuesday to receiving money from a robbery of $11,000 in 2009, and then lying to internal affairs, in a case The Baltimore Sun wrote about in December after obtaining the case’s internal affairs file. Rayam had been charged with lying but was cleared of wrongdoing by an internal disciplinary panel and put back to work on the Gun Trace Task Force.

Rayam also told the FBI that his longtime partner, Detective Momodu Gondo, told him he had once gone with an associate to buy a gun that was used in a murder, and had been involved in shootings himself before he became a police officer and had “laid someone out.”

Gondo was shot in 2006 outside his home while wearing his uniform but off-duty, a case in which a man was charged, tried and acquitted. Rayam told the FBI that Gondo told him the shooting was not related to being a police officer, but was “actually in retaliation for drug trafficking,” Taylor’s defense attorney, Jenifer Wicks, said.

Gondo has pleaded guilty to both racketeering and for his role in a drug organization, and is expected to be called as a witness for the government later in the trial.

The shocking disclosures were just the latest to emerge in the trial, revealing allegations of everyday misconduct by the officers as well as brazen crimes. Federal prosecutors have called the officers “both cops and robbers.”

City prosecutors have dropped about 125 cases as of December involving the gun task force officers. Deborah Katz Levi, of the Maryland public defender’s office, said the number should be far higher because the officers handled many more cases and their integrity is compromised.

“Based on the testimony earlier in the week, our numbers grew to approximately 3,000 tainted cases, dating from 2011 forward,” she said. “We anticipate that the number of affected convictions will grow significantly.”

Two men who were robbed by members of the unit also testified Tuesday.

Herbert Tate, an HVAC technician, said he was walking in East Baltimore when Hersl and two other officers, Kevin Fassl and Sgt. John Burns, stopped him and searched him on the street. Hersl began checking nearby staircases and vacant homes looking for drugs before allegedly finding heroin stashed behind a wall. Tate said the drugs did not belong to him. Meanwhile, he said he had about $530 on him, and the officers reported submitting only about $220.

Defense attorney Christopher Nieto questioned why Tate was in the area when the officers stopped him.

“This is not a great neighborhood in Baltimore, is it?” Nieto said.

“To me it is,” Tate said.

Also taking the stand was Dennis Armstong, who admitted he was leaving a storage container where he stowed kilograms of cocaine when he was stopped by the officers. He fled, “throwing snowball-sized chunks of cocaine out of the window, exploding on the street,” Hersl’s attorney, William Purpura, said earlier in the trial.

Armstrong said the officers took $8,000 from him and reported seizing just $2,800. Police destroyed his storage unit, tearing off the walls that separated it from other units, and took two kilograms of cocaine.

Armstrong testified that he never said anything about the missing drugs because he would have faced more jail time.

The car crash recorded by the FBI device occurred on Aug. 31, 2016, near the University of Maryland downtown, Rayam testified. The Police Department could not provide a copy of the incident report Tuesday.

Rayam said the unit’s sergeant, Wayne Jenkins, spotted a car at a gas station and tried to pull it over, but the car sped off. The officers gave chase, despite a policy against high-speed pursuits.

“No lights, no lights,” Rayam can be heard saying on the recording, referring to turning off their emergency lights. The police car’s engine revs in the background.

“S—. Damn!” Gondo says, apparently after the crash.

“Keep going, yo,” Rayam says.

The officers can be heard discussing the likelihood that surveillance cameras captured them giving chase.

Hersl can be heard saying Jenkins wanted the officers to stay in the area, and to listen on the police radio to see if any other officers would come to render aid.

“All we had to do was just get out,” Taylor can be heard saying.

“Hey, we were never down that street,” Hersl says.

Hersl later says, “We could go and stop the [time] slips at 10:30, before that happened. … I was in the car, just driving home.”

“I was being a follower,” Rayam testified. “I should have called it in.”

Jenkins also has pleaded guilty in the case.

In addition to breaking down while recounting the crash, Rayam cried earlier in his testimony when a wiretapped phone conversation with Gondo was played for the jury. Rayam’s children can be heard in the background. Court records show his wife has filed for divorce since he was criminally charged.

Despite cutting corners in his police work, using illegal tactics and lying to justify searches, Rayam said he never planted drugs or guns on anyone. If anything, he said, people he robbed might get a break because they were either let go or faced reduced charges.

He said he was airing everything he knew about illegal misconduct in order to clear his conscience and potentially reduce his sentence.

Hersl’s attorney, William Purpura, asked Rayam if he was in “a bind.”

“It’s never too late to do the right thing,” Rayam said.

 

Justin Fenton, January 30, 2018, The Baltimore Sun, “FBI had recording device in police car when Baltimore gun unit fled scene of crash after chase”, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-ci-gttf-day-four-20180130-story.html

Freddie Gray case: Baltimore police van driver disciplinary trial to begin

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/94994148-132.html

Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun

October 30, 2017

The Baltimore police officer acquitted of murder in the death of Freddie Gray will on Monday face the latest — and last — push to hold him accountable, as his police disciplinary trial for alleged violations of department policies begins at the University of Baltimore.

Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., the driver of the police van in which the 25-year-old Gray suffered mortal spinal cord injuries in April 2015, faces more than 20 charges, according to a source familiar with the case.

The charges include providing a false statement about the circumstances surrounding Gray’s arrest, and neglecting his duty to keep Gray safe by failing to secure him in a seat belt, according to multiple sources familiar with the case.

The sources requested anonymity in order to speak freely about a pending legal matter.

Goodson, 48, has not spoken publicly about the case. He has always maintained his innocence. Two officers charged in Gray’s arrest and death have accepted department discipline. Goodson and two others are fighting the charges.

Goodson’s attorney, Sean Malone, said Goodson and his family are “near the end of a grueling 30-month process to clear his name,” and that he and his legal team “are prepared to provide a vigorous defense.”

Malone otherwise declined to comment, as did Goodson’s family.

William H. “Billy” Murphy, the attorney for the Gray family, also declined to comment.

City Solicitor Andre Davis said city and police officials have done everything in their power to ensure a fair process and he believes they have succeeded. He said he hoped Baltimore residents “pay attention to the proceedings” and come away with the same conclusion.

“We should accept the outcome of these proceedings however they go, because we have a process that is one that is rooted in fairness, transparency and impartiality,” he said.

A three-person trial board of Prince George’s County Police Maj. Rosa Guixens, Baltimore Police Maj. Steve Hohman and Baltimore Police Detective Ryan Diener will hear Goodson’s case, sources said.

Guixens, the commander of the Prince George’s County police district that includes College Park and Hyattsville, will chair the panel. Baltimore police officials said they sought an outside law enforcement official to chair the board to avoid the appearance of bias.

Hohman heads the Baltimore Police Department’s Special Investigations Section, which investigates sexual assaults, child abuse, missing persons and other domestic and economic crimes. Diener is a city homicide detective who has served on executive protection details, including one for former Commissioner Anthony Batts.

Guixens declined to comment. Hohman and Diener could not be reached for comment.

If the board finds Goodson guilty of any of the charges against him, it will use a standardized discipline matrix to recommend a punishment to Police Commissioner Kevin Davis. Davis could then impose whatever administrative punishment he deems fit, up to and including termination.

The board can also clear Goodson, a decision the commissioner could not challenge.

Kevin Davis declined to comment on Goodson’s case. He said such disciplinary trials are “a process that’s established by law,” and his department is “being very thoughtful about adhering to the process.”

He acknowledged that some people “have a great deal of skepticism and doubt when it comes to police departments, in Baltimore or elsewhere, being able to faithfully and fairly make it through a process like this one.” He said he is committed to making that happen in this case.

Legal analysts said the arguments laid out in the disciplinary trial against Goodson will likely be familiar to anyone who followed the criminal cases that Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby’s office brought in May 2015 against Goodson and the five other officers.

All six pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges. Goodson and two other officers were acquitted of all charges, and Mosby abandoned the prosecutions against the other three.

For the trial board, the burden on prosecutors is lighter: They may prove guilt by a preponderance of evidence, not the higher standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt required in criminal court.

Sources said each of the administrative charges against Goodson contains multiple specific instances in which Goodson violated the policy in question. In each case, prosecutors need prove only a single violation for the charge to be sustained.

Goodson, a member of the Baltimore Police Department since 1999, faced the most serious criminal charge of the six officers: second-degree depraved heart murder. He was also charged with manslaughter.

The other officers were charged with varying mixes of manslaughter, assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

Prosecutors alleged Goodson gave Gray an intentional “rough ride,” ignored his requests for medical care and willfully put him in danger by failing to securing him with a seat belt despite the fact that he was handcuffed and shackled at the ankles.

Similar allegations, minus the “rough ride” theory, were levied against the other officers.

Goodson’s attorneys said Goodson deferred to other officers — including a supervisor — who took more active roles in Gray’s arrest. They also questioned Goodson’s training and awareness of the dangers of not securing a shackled detainee with a seat belt.

Circuit Judge Barry Williams acquitted Goodson, Lt. Brian Rice and Officer Edward Nero at bench trials, saying the state did not have enough evidence to convict them.

“The failure to seat-belt may have been a mistake or it may have been bad judgment, but without showing more than has been presented to the court concerning the failure to seat-belt and the surrounding circumstances, the state has failed to meet its burden to show that the actions of the defendant rose above mere civil negligence,” Williams said in Goodson’s case.

After the acquittals, Mosby dropped all remaining charges against Sgt. Alicia White and Officers William Porter and Garrett Miller.

The city had previously settled with the Gray family for $6.4 million.

The U.S. Department of Justice, which conducted its own investigation, said last month that it would not bring federal criminal charges against the officers.

That left the trial boards the last unresolved proceedings in the matter.

To avoid the appearance of bias, Commissioner Davis outsourced the internal reviews of the officers’ actions to police departments in Montgomery and Howard counties. Investigators in those agencies determined that all of the officers except Porter had violated policies.

Miller and Nero accepted “minor disciplinary action” and have returned to work, a police union attorney said.

Goodson, Rice and White, who face termination, are fighting the charges against them. All have trials scheduled at the University of Baltimore’s Learning Commons on Maryland Avenue. Goodson’s trial is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Monday and last through Friday. Rice’s trial is scheduled from Nov. 13 to Nov. 17; and White’s from Dec. 5 to Dec. 11.

State lawmakers changed the law last year to make such trials open to the public.

Vince Canales, president of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police, said the trials are part of a “series of checks and balances” for adjudicating accusations of police misconduct in the state.

“We’re looking forward to the process playing out and seeing what the outcome winds up being,” he said.

Canales said he knows Guixens to be “conscientious and hard-working,” and believes she will “do her job in an ethical fashion.”

Prosecuting Goodson will be attorney Neil Duke, a litigator and former chair of the Baltimore school board who has a contract with the city law department and who has defended officers accused of misconduct in other cases. Duke did not respond to a request for comment.

City Solicitor Davis said law faculty from the University of Baltimore, which is hosting the trials, will provide independent legal advice to the trial board should it be needed during the trial.

David Jaros, a University of Baltimore law professor, said whatever the outcome, it’s likely many questions — such as what exactly happened to Gray in the back of the van — will remain unanswered, just as they did after the officers’ criminal trials.

“If the criminal trials were not sufficient to sort of clear up what happened on that terrible day,” he said, “this is not going to lead to any eye-opening new information.”

Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun, October 30, 2017, “Freddie Gray case: Baltimore police van driver disciplinary trial to begin”, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/bs-md-ci-goodson-trial-board-20171027-story.html