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Supreme Court denies appeal by officers in Freddie Gray case

Five Baltimore police officers had alleged they were wrongfully prosecuted for the death of Freddie Gray

By Kevin Rector
The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — The U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal on Tuesday from five Baltimore police officers in a case in which they alleged they were wrongfully prosecuted for the death of Freddie Gray by Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

The decision brings the case to an end, in Mosby’s favor. It leaves intact a May decision by a Richmond, Va.-based federal appeals court that blocked the officers’ lawsuit on the grounds that prosecutors have immunity from such charges. The officers appealed that court’s decision to the Supreme Court in October.

The Supreme Court’s denial was posted to the court’s website Tuesday.

Mosby said she was pleased with the Supreme Court ruling, and that she had “no regrets” about prosecuting the officers.

“I believe that a crime took place and there were individuals that needed to be held accountable,” she said.

Mosby said she will “continue to carry out the will of the people of Baltimore” by applying “one standard of justice” to all.

Catherine Flynn, an attorney who petitioned the appellate court’s ruling to the Supreme Court on behalf of the officers, could not be reached for comment.

Gray, 25, died of severe neck injuries that he sustained while in police custody in April 2015. His death kicked off large-scale protests across the city and his funeral was followed by unrest and rioting, which caused millions of dollars in damage and brought the Maryland National Guard to the city to restore order.

In the days that followed the unrest, Mosby filed criminal charges against six Baltimore police officers involved in Gray’s arrest. Three were acquitted at trial, after which Mosby dropped all charges against the other three. None of the officers were found guilty of administrative violations by the department.

Five of the officers — Lt. Brian Rice, Sgt. Alicia White and Officers Edward Nero, Garrett Miller and William Porter — sued Mosby afterward, alleging she defamed them, lacked evidence for the charges she brought against them, and only charged them to ease the unrest. The sixth officer charged in the case, Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., did not join the lawsuit.

Mosby’s defense countered that she had prosecutorial immunity for her decisions to charge the officers.

In January, U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis dismissed charges of false arrest and false imprisonment made against Mosby by the officers, but ruled that charges including malicious prosecution, defamation and invasion of privacy could move forward against Mosby and Assistant Baltimore City Sheriff Samuel Cogen, who wrote the statement of probable cause in the Gray case.

In May, the federal appeals court in Richmond overturned Garbis.

“We resoundingly reject the invitation to cast aside decades of Supreme Court and circuit precedent to narrow the immunity prosecutors enjoy,” Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote in that court’s opinion. “And we find no justification for denying Mosby the protection from suit that the Maryland legislature has granted her.”

Mosby said the case had taken “an incredible toll” on her personally, on her family and on other prosecutors in her office, but that she was “proud to be a part of the legacy of reform” of police in Baltimore.

Despite her lack of convictions in the case, she said “justice has prevailed because every single Baltimore police officer is being held accountable for the actions of a few” through sweeping reforms that have been implemented in the department since Gray’s death.

She mentioned several of those reforms, including the introduction of body cameras, revised policies for the transport of detainees, new software that tracks officers’ receipt of policies and policy updates, and new policies for officer use of force and for responding to detainee requests for medical assistance.

“This is the meaning of reform,” she said. “Because of that reform, we have a spotlight on the entrenched police corruption of one of the largest police departments in the country.”