Judge dismisses attempted murder case prosecutors were bringing forward despite involvement of corrupt gun unit

A Baltimore judge on Friday threw out an attempted murder case that city prosecutors were bringing forward despite the arrest being made by members of the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force.

Prosecutors were pursuing charges against 51-year-old Charles Smith by hoping to work around using the convicted officers as witness, while the defense was poised to have them transported from detention centers and put on the stand next week.

Circuit Court Judge Marcus Z. Shar nixed those plans, according to assistant public defender Deborah Katz Levi. She said Shar dismissed the case during pre-trial motions after determining video footage, showing more involvement at the scene by gun unit officers than had been disclosed, was not turned over to the defense.

“As part of our extensive review, the state’s attorney’s office pursued this case because the testimony of the GTTF officers was immaterial and the primary evidence in this case included a video of the shooting and the vicitm’s identification,” said Melba Saunders, a spokeswoman for the State’s Attorney’s Office. “The detectives failed to properly disclose evidence to the prosecutor in this case, which has consequently compromised the entirety of the case, and we are now looking into our appellate options.”

Levi said Smith’s case shouldn’t have gone forward. The Gun Trace Task Force officers, who have been convicted of robbing citizens and falsifying reports for years, were nearby when shots rang out in Southwest Baltimore in July 2016, and they were the ones who apprehended Smith at the scene.

“The entire case springs from the GTTF officers’ observations,” she said Friday after the dismissal. “You can’t on one hand say this is the greatest scandal and dismiss convictions because they’re not reliable, and then go forward on their reliability.”

The dismissal came at the same time as prosecutors announced the results of an initial review of more than 275 cases affected by the Gun Trace Task Force scandal, showing about 200 cases had been dropped. Prosecutors decided against re-opening 56 closed cases, and were continuing to pursue charges in four cases, including the case against Smith.

State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said her office’s review of 284 cases involving the Gun Trace Task Force officers was only an initial review.

She has said thousands of cases may be affected, and prosecutors said they will be broadening their scope to find other convictions that should be overturned because they rely on the word of the convicted officers.

“Unfortunately, based upon the subsequent trial testimony of the GTTF officers, which implicated criminality conducted within a more expansive time period and even alleged the involvement of additional officers, our office must now employ even greater resources to assess potentially thousands of cases,” Mosby said in a statement Friday. “Recognizing that justice is our only barometer of success, we will continue to do our due diligence in strengthening public trust in the criminal justice system.”

Mosby has said the review has strained her office’s resources.

Defense attorney Ivan Bates, who is one of two candidates challenging Mosby in the upcoming Democratic primary election, has said that before the officers were indicted, the state’s attorney’s office wrongly continued to bring forward cases involving the officers despite concerns about their integrity being repeatedly raised. He has also called on the State’s Attorney’s Office to support and participate in a review of the scandal proposed by state legislators.

jfenton@baltsun.com

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