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News Maryland Baltimore Crime Beat

City to pay $250,000 to man who claims police deleted video of an arrest

Baltimore is set to pay $250,000 to a man who says police seized his cellphone and deleted the video of an arrest at the Preakness Stakes in 2010, according a settlement proposal that will be presented to the city's spending panel this month.

Police "vigorously" dispute the allegations by Christopher Sharp who claimed officers violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights when they took his phone after the arrest of his female friend at Pimlico Race Course.

But the city lawyers said in the two-page document that because of "factual disputes," a settlement will help the city "to resolve this litigation economically and to avoid the expense, time and uncertainties" of a potential jury verdict.

The case led to new city policies that uphold the right of citizens to record police.

George Nilson, the city solicitor, said the settlement was reached because both the police and law departments "thought it was the right thing to do." He declined further comment, saying the matter was expected to come before the Board of Estimates on March 12.

A police spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

Sharp, who was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, sued the city after an incident on May 15, 2010, during which he says officers deleted video of his friend being beaten by the police.

Both police and Sharp have said that they don't know the identity of the officers allegedly involved.

In a statement, Meredith Curtis, a spokeswoman for the ACLU, said, "Christopher Sharp and the ACLU are heartened that progress towards an amicable settlement was finally made recently. We are hopeful that the negotiated settlement agreement will be positively considered and approved by the Board of Estimates."

Last year, a federal judge rebuked police for engaging in a "veritable witch hunt" into Sharp and ordered the department to pay $1,000 for a "not so subtle attempt to intimidate the plaintiff." According to court documents, the department contacted Sharp's ex-wife and former employers for information on his personal life in an attempt to determine whether he "is a drug addict."

The spending board is also set to consider a $35,000 settlement with Mary Thompson, a woman who sued the city after a teacher allegedly closed a door on her son's hand at Baltimore Freedom Academy.

Thompson claims that a teacher was negligent when he allegedly slammed her son's right hand in the door on Oct. 6, 2011, according to the settlement. The boy opened the door after the teacher asked him to stay in a classroom for misbehaving when the teacher closed the door on the child's hand, the documents state.

The boy required surgery for the injury.

ywenger@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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