After claiming police bias in Gray investigation, Mosby praises cops, department for role in Cagle case

Marilyn Mosby thanked two cops who "did the right thing" by testifying about a fellow cop's misconduct.

Less than two weeks after saying Baltimore police are too biased to investigate themselves, State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby stood with Police Commissioner Kevin Davis Monday to praise the department and two officers who spoke up about a fellow officer's misconduct.

Officers Keven Leary and Isiah Smith testified against Officer Wesley Cagle, who was convicted by a jury last week of first-degree assault and a handgun charge in a December 2014 shooting of an unarmed burglary suspect.

Cagle, 46, shot Michael Johansen in the groin as he lay in the doorway of an East Baltimore corner store after two other officers had already shot him, prosecutors said. Cagle, a 15-year veteran of the police force, was acquitted of more serious charges of attempted first- and second-degree murder, but could be sentenced to at least five years in prison.

"Today I stand alongside of Commissioner Kevin Davis to give special thanks to two Baltimore police officers, Officer Keven Leary and Officer Isaiah Smith, who acted and did the right thing by testifying against their fellow officer who did the wrong thing," Mosby said.

"We believe under this police commissioner, this will become the rule rather than the exception, and this case highlights our commitment together to work with one another," she said.

The Cagle trial began the same week Mosby dropped charges in the remaining three officers' trials in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray. At a news conference following that decision, Mosby sharply criticized the Police Department, saying it and the criminal justice system needed radical reform.

"We've all borne witness to an inherent bias that is a direct result of when police investigate themselves," she said at the time.

Leary, Smith and Cagle had been called to a store in the 3000 block of E. Monument St. for a reported burglary. Leary and Smith were cleared for shooting Johansen because prosecutors determined he reached toward his waistband and refused their commands.

Leary testified that Cagle told him he'd shot Johansen, and said he believed Cagle's actions were unnecessary.

"The threat was over," Leary said.

Smith testified that he heard "an exchange of words" between Cagle and Johansen, but could not make out what was said. Then, he said, Cagle fired his weapon.

Johansen told the jury Cagle stood over him as he lay on the ground, called him a "piece of [expletive]" and shot him in the groin.

Mosby quoted Johansen's testimony, including the expletive, on Monday.

"The vast majority of police officers in this city are good officers, and I'm gratified that in this case, the good officers testified against the bad officer," she said.

Mosby and Davis delivered prepared remarks at a news conference at police headquarters and did not take questions afterward. The officers involved were not present, and the department did not make them available for comment.

Mosby said she was heartened by the two officers' standing up for justice, and she credited Davis for helping to create better police-prosecutor relations.

"Commissioner Davis and his staff are working extraordinarily hard to create the kind of police department that Baltimore residents deserve, and I thank him and all of the men and women that uphold that sacred oath."

Davis also praised the officers and said he was "not surprised one bit" that the Police Department and prosecutors were able to work together to convict Cagle.

"Reporting misconduct, now absolutely required by our new use-of-force policy, is something that the community has a right to expect from all police officers in Baltimore," he said. "My team and the state's attorney's team are here today to support the vast majority of police officers who routinely do the right thing day after day, and call after call.

"There's nothing more a good cop hates than a bad cop," Davis said.

The joint news conference was an attempt by city police and prosecutors to "reset" a public perception of animosity after the tension of the Freddie Gray case, said David Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh,.

"It's a chance for these two leaders to say, 'No, look, we're on the same page,' and change the narrative away from 'God, they hate each other's guts,'" Harris said. "As leaders of their respective agencies, they know they have to work together."

Jeffrey Ian Ross, a criminologist at the University of Baltimore, called Monday's news conference "Mosby's opportunity to engage in what we might call a type of charm offensive — to orally, verbally give her praise to the officers who came forward and provided evidence."

Gray, 25, died a week after his arrest from injuries sustained in police custody in April 2015. Amid tension from weeks of protests and a riot on the day of Gray's funeral, Mosby announced criminal charges against the six officers involved in Gray's arrest and death.

Three of the officers were acquitted of all charges by a judge, and the charges against the remaining three were dropped.

William H. "Billy" Murphy, the attorney who won the Gray family a $6.4 million civil settlement from the city, attended the Monday news conference and afterward praised Mosby and Davis for being "dedicated to breaking that blue wall of silence that prevents good cops from testifying against bad cops."

"As Officer Leary said, what's right is right, and what's wrong is wrong, and so we have to encourage and protect these two officers and other like-minded officers to come forward when they witness bad cops doing a bad thing," Murphy said.

Mosby had a "good-faith basis" for complaining that she had "less than total cooperation" from police investigators in the Gray case, he said.

Davis has defended the department's investigation, saying more than 30 detectives "worked tirelessly to uncover facts" in the case.

Murphy also criticized the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, the union that represents the city's rank-and-file officers, for not condemning Cagle's actions. He gave a blistering portrayal of the city police union as dominated by "old, white, retired officers who come from the older generation, where the blue wall of silence was respected and honored."

FOP President Gene Ryan did not respond to a request for comment.

Baltimore Sun reporter Alison Knezevich contributed to this article.

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

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