City prosecutors, public defenders and private attorneys have all been preoccupied since federal authorities indicted seven Baltimore police officers on federal racketeering charges last month. At a press conference this morning, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby revealed her office has identified more than 50 active cases and over 150 closed and adjudicated cases affected by the indictments.
Mosby said prosecutors have already nullified charges in 30 of those 50 active cases after reviewing statements of probable cause and offense reports submitted by police, analyzing or searching for new forensic evidence, contacting victims or checking if other officers may have witnessed the alleged crimes.
The February indictments of the team of officers from the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force sent waves rippling across the city’s justice system. The officers — Sgt. Wayne Jenkins and detectives Momodu Gondo, Evodio Hendrix, Daniel Hersl, Jemell Rayam, Marcus Taylor and Maurice Ward — are accused of falsifying police paperwork, stealing money from the city by filing for overtime while on vacation, robbing suspects and threatening citizens, among other offenses. Their alleged misconduct has hampered cases for which they were the primary witnesses.
The Office of the Public Defender previously told Baltimore Fishbowl more than 100 cases involving public defenders had been affected, though that tally now “appears to be in the thousands,” said OPD spokeswoman Melissa Rothstein in an email today.
“With respect to cases that can be vacated with the consent of the State’s Attorney, based on our internal spreadsheet, we have identified about 300 cases that have been filed since 2015 involving these officers,” she said.
In numerous cases, including one involving a former Safe Streets violence interrupter who claimed he was framed by a handful of those officers, prosecutors have been forced to drop charges.
Today, Mosby said her office has been devoting resources to sort through affected cases. She said the officers “conspired to deceive and betray the public’s trust.”
“Understanding and recognizing that the credibility of these officers has now been directly called into question, it is incumbent upon us as ministers of justice to do what’s right and to pursue justice over convictions while simultaneously prioritizing public safety,” she said.
The timeline for the 200-plus affected cases extends from Jan. 1, 2015, to today, Mosby said. So far, they’ve entered nolle prosequi, or legally discontinued proceedings, for 10 of 13 incarcerated defendants and have assessed 18 active cases, with more anticipated to be resolved by the end of next week, she said.
Pressed on whether the number of cases will continue to “skyrocket,” Mosby said the tally “remains fluid.”
Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office Chief Counsel Antonio Gioia stepped in, saying, “There could be some fluctuation, but I do not expect to be characterizing it as ‘skyrocketing.’”
Mosby said her office will continue to work with public defenders and defense attorneys to vacate already issued judgments or convictions if they can’t prove them via other means, such as corroborating accounts or forensic evidence. However, not all convicts are eligible to get off the hook just because their case involved alleged dirty behavior by cops, she said.
“Just because one of the officers was tangentially involved in a defendant’s case, this does not constitute an immediate means to be released from incarceration, nor does it mean that we will automatically seek to vacate the conviction,” Mosby said.
Mosby issued something of an apology to the police officers who do their jobs without lying or deceiving the public and their superiors.
“I extend my deepest regrets to those hard working, dedicated police officers who risk their lives each and every day on the Baltimore Police Department, that are now marred by the actions of a few.”
Deputy District Public Defender Natalie Finegar said in a statement issued before the presser, “The State’s Attorney’s consent to dismiss these cases was a necessary response to the allegations against the indicted officers. However, thousands of other Baltimore residents had their lives interrupted, and often destroyed, by these officers’ wrongdoing in cases that predate 2015 and in cases where the sentence is over but the conviction still impacts the ability to get a job or a home.”
The OPD set up a hotline (410-914-7858) and a Google doc for individuals if they believe they or someone they know has a case that could be affected. Mosby today also encouraged citizens to contact her office about possibly tainted cases.
Rothstein from the OPD said public defenders still need to check which individuals are still serving sentences or probation terms in order for prosecutors to vacate their judgements.
“We anticipate that there may be some cases that should be included which are not on our list,” she said. “Many of these officers have been active on the force for more than a decade, so these are the tip of the iceberg.”