Gabriel is suing the jail and its officials in the federal case in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. A spokesman for Gansler's office declined to comment on the active case.

Jason E. Fetterman, an attorney with Niles, Barton & Wilmer who was appointed to represent Gabriel pro bono, declined to comment.

Recently, Gansler sent a letter to Gov. Martin O'Malley calling for an independent investigation into the "recent revelations of pervasive gang activity" at the Baltimore jail.

But he did not mention that his office has repeatedly defended jail officials against inmates' claims of corruption — including some, like Hemphill's, that mirrored allegations in the federal indictment.

Gansler, in an interview, said he did not know about the alleged Baltimore jail corruption until he "read about it in the newspaper" after the unsealing of the indictment. He declined to comment on specific cases but said not all inmate filings litigated by his office come across his desk.

Members of his office routinely report allegations of corruption to corrections officials, he said, and if a pattern of corruption was identified, they might alert U.S. Attorney for Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein.

As for using the Prison Litigation Reform Act to have corruption complaints dismissed, Gansler said he could not comment. "We don't have the authority to make the policy decisions," he said.

The state could face new grievances — or a class-action lawsuit — filed by inmates who say that their civil rights were abridged when jail administrators allegedly allowed the Black Guerrilla Family to obtain broad control in the Baltimore jail, said Gaston, the former University of Maryland professor.

How much jail officials knew about the gang's power within the facility — and under what parameters they allowed it to continue as federal investigators built their case — will likely become key questions in future cases, said Gaston, a clinical psychologist and prison gang expert.

"If you are knowingly putting the lives or health of other inmates in danger just to build a case," he said, "what of the individual rights of the person being affected?"

krector@baltsun.com

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