Defense says prosecutor steered police away from evidence Freddie Gray had history of 'crash for cash' schemes

Officers' attorneys say Freddie Gray had history of 'crash for cash' schemes.

The police detectives who investigated the death of Freddie Gray were told that he had a history of participating in "crash-for-cash" schemes — injuring himself in law enforcement settings to collect settlements — but were advised by a state prosecutor not to pursue the information, according to defense attorneys for the six officers charged in Gray's arrest and death.

The defense attorneys said in a court motion Thursday that Assistant State's Attorney Janice Bledsoe told police investigators working the case in its early stages not to "do the defense attorneys' jobs for them" by pursuing information they had about such schemes and evidence that Gray "intentionally injured himself at the Baltimore City Detention Center."

Bledsoe, the lead prosecutor in the case against the officers, represented Gray in a 2012 case in which he pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine.

The defense attorneys argued that her alleged statement "would seem to indicate some level of knowledge that exculpatory evidence exists which could benefit the officers charged in Mr. Gray's death and that the prosecutor did not want this information uncovered by investigators."

The defense attorneys said they obtained the information from interviews with prosecution witnesses.

They have argued in previous motions that Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby has failed to provide large amounts of evidence through the normal discovery process, and that they have spent hundreds of hours collecting evidence on their own.

Defense attorneys have sought to have Mosby and others removed from the case.

Mosby's office did not respond to a request for comment. Prosecutors say they have disclosed all the evidence to which the defense is entitled.

Defense attorneys for the six officers declined to comment Thursday or could not be reached.

Police did not respond to a request for comment on the allegations about conversations between its investigators and prosecutors. A corrections department spokesman said he couldn't confirm whether Gray had been injured at the jail without more information, such as the date of the alleged incident, which defense attorneys did not provide in their motion.

Gray, 25, died after sustaining a severe spinal cord injury in the back of a police transport van. His death in April sparked widespread protests against police brutality. On the day of his funeral, rioters clashed with police, looted businesses and burned buildings.

Questions about his injury remain. Some say he could have injured himself. Others say police might have subjected him to a "rough ride" in the back of the van. Neither theory has been proved.

Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the driver of the van, is charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder. Sgt. Alicia D. White, Lt. Brian W. Rice and Officer William G. Porter are charged with manslaughter. Officers Edward M. Nero and Garrett E. Miller, who were involved in Gray's initial arrest, face lesser charges, including second-degree assault.

All have pleaded not guilty. A trial is scheduled to begin in October.

The defense motion Thursday included more allegations to support the defense argument that prosecutors had improper communications with the medical examiner before her determination that Gray's death was the result of a homicide.

The defense said Dr. Carole Allen told the defense that she was given statements by the police officers, but not by anyone else, such as Donta Allen, who was arrested the same day as Gray and was in the back of the van, in a separate compartment, at the alleged time of Gray's injury.

Defense attorneys said the medical examiner was given "an oral summary of [Donta Allen's] statement by [prosecutors] and their opinion as to Mr. Allen's motives in providing a statement."

"As part of the autopsy findings, the [Office of the Chief Medical Examiner] gave no weight to the statement of Donta Allen that Freddie Gray had been 'banging himself, like he was banging his head against the metal … like he was trying to knock himself out or something.'"

After Mosby announced charges against the officers, Allen rejected media reports that suggested he had heard Gray trying to injury himself.

Allen said he heard "very little banging for like four seconds," and nothing else.

"I know that man for a fact did not hurt himself," Allen said at the time.

A spokesman for the medical examiner's office could not be reached for comment.

Defense attorneys repeated their argument that members of Mosby's office have made themselves witnesses in the case by acting outside their prosecutorial role as investigators.

Mosby's office has said there is little precedent for removing prosecutors on the grounds raised by the defense.

The defense said that's true — but "not surprising since the actions of the [state's attorney's office] and its attorneys in the Freddie Gray case are unprecedented."

"Rarely," they wrote, "do prosecutors inject themselves so deeply into the fabric of an investigation — as State's Attorney Mosby and her prosecutors have done — to make themselves material witnesses in a case in which they are supposed to act as lawyers."

krector@baltsun.com

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