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Officers' attorneys slam Mosby for playing 'victim,' twisting facts in Freddie Gray case

Freddie Gray officers' attorneys to Mosby: Stop playing the 'victim' after losing

Defense attorneys for three of the Baltimore police officers cleared in the Freddie Gray case slammed Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby on Thursday, saying she painted herself as the "victim" of a crooked criminal justice system, rather than acknowledging that she had victimized their clients by filing baseless charges against them.

In their first extended comments since a gag order was lifted after the case concluded Wednesday, attorneys for Lt. Brian Rice and Officers Edward Nero and Garrett Miller told The Baltimore Sun that Mosby had been offered help by the Maryland State Police early in the investigative process, but rejected it.

They said Mosby also could have requested help from a variety of other agencies and prosecutors around the region but did not — instead rushing ahead with what they called a flimsy theory, only to complain after losing about the lack of an independent investigation.

Rice and Nero's attorneys said their clients had been willing to sit down with prosecutors in the days immediately following Gray's death to provide a fuller narrative of what happened, but never did.

The attorneys scoffed at Mosby's claim, made at a news conference Wednesday morning after the remaining charges were dropped, that she had brought strong cases against the officers that were undone by a rigged system. In reality, they said, their clients had been railroaded by a prosecutor who was less interested in the truth than in announcing charges to quell riots.

"The fact that she's finding herself as a victim and blaming police, and blaming the court, and blaming the defendants for exercising their constitutional rights to elect a court trial, and blaming the judge for him actually holding them to their burden, is pretty shocking," said Catherine Flynn, Miller's attorney.

"These charges were not supported by any fact or evidence. Period," said Michael Belsky, Rice's attorney. "These charges were brought based on a fictitious narrative that was never true and never proven."

A spokeswoman for Mosby did not respond to a request for comment late Thursday.

Gray, 25, died a week after suffering severe spinal cord injuries in the back of a police van in April 2015. His death sparked widespread protests against police brutality. A night of rioting, looting and arson followed his funeral. Mosby charged the officers a few days later, amid continued unrest.

In court, prosecutors alleged that the officers caused Gray's death by shackling and handcuffing him but failing to secure him with a seat belt in the van, and by refusing to get him medical attention when he asked for it. Defense attorneys said in court that the officers acted reasonably, calling Gray's death a tragic accident.

The defense attorneys' comments came a day after Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow announced that Mosby's office was dropping all remaining charges against three officers: Miller, Officer William Porter and Sgt. Alicia White. That decision came after the other three officers — Rice, Nero and Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. — were acquitted after bench trials by Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams.

After the charges were dropped Wednesday, Mosby defended her prosecution in a fiery speech in West Baltimore, saying they were dropped only because of the unlikelihood of securing a conviction in a bench trial before the same judge who had acquitted the three other officers.

She said members of the Baltimore Police Department actively worked to undermine the investigation and that prosecutors were hampered by the officers' ability to choose bench trials rather than jury trials. Those realities, she said, and broader, unspecified issues within the criminal justice system had allowed the officers to escape conviction.

On Thursday, Schatzow and Deputy State's Attorney Janice Bledsoe again defended the cases, saying they continued to believe they had enough evidence to convict the officers.

"We re-examined the cases daily, but no, we never came to the conclusion that there was insufficient evidence," Schatzow said.

They said the fact that a grand jury indicted the officers, and that Williams allowed the trials to play out, showed there was merit to the charges.

In response, Flynn, Belsky and Marc Zayon, who is Nero's attorney, said Mosby's lamenting the lack of an outside investigation ignores the fact that the Maryland State Police had offered assistance.

Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman, confirmed that his agency had offered assistance in the case.

"The Maryland State Police agreed to provide technical assistance to the state's attorney's office that would include the expertise of our Computer Crimes Unit," Shipley said. "Ultimately, we were not called upon to provide any assistance."

The state's attorney's office said that "while the State Police did offer to provide some assistance, what they were willing to do was minimum and things we were able to do quicker with our known investigators."

Mosby's office also could have reached out to any investigative agency it wanted to for help, but didn't do so, said Zayon, a former Baltimore County prosecutor.

"For in all likelihood political reasons, this case was indicted within two weeks with basically no independent investigation done, and a very good investigation, done by the Baltimore Police Department, that Ms. Mosby just chose to ignore," he said. "And now, she should be blaming herself, but instead is trying to deflect the blame and blame everyone else."

Zayon and Belsky both said that in the days following Gray's death, and before Mosby announced the charges against the officers, Nero and Rice were willing to speak with prosecutors about what had occurred. But they never got the chance, the attorneys said.

"If there was anything that Mr. Schatzow or Ms. Bledsoe or Ms. Mosby wanted to talk to Officer Nero about, we would have been more than happy to sit down and tell them anything that they wanted to know. But instead of talking and trying to get information from the officers, within two weeks they indict them and charge them with crimes. No one was hiding anything," Zayon said.

"My client was asked if he wanted to give a statement to the state's attorney's office, and my reply was that I was inclined to do it. Within 24 hours, I never received a phone call and he was charged," Belsky said. "He was willing to sit down and talk to them, and instead they just went and charged him. They didn't care what he had to say.

"They weren't interested in the truth, they were interested in charging," Zayon said.

Belsky said the defense has "no clue" what prosecutors presented to the grand jury to have their cases "sanctioned and blessed," as Mosby claimed, but called on Mosby to release transcripts of the proceedings.

Flynn said prosecutors "irresponsibly" made allegations about misconduct by police officers, including her client, both at trial and in their comments on Wednesday and Thursday, without producing any evidence to support the claims.

"I'm not sure that's going to go unanswered," she said. "It's wildly irresponsible."

The attorneys said neither they nor their clients ever understood why Mosby brought the charges she did.

"For police officers who have sworn their lives to upholding the rule of law and devoted their lives to the criminal justice system, to have to watch the prosecution contort the law and contort the process is extremely frightening," Belsky said.

To have to watch Mosby describe the case in stark, unsubstantiated terms Wednesday — saying Gray was chased for no reason and suggesting that the officers had brutalized him — despite losing in court for a lack of such evidence was also painful for the officers, Belsky said.

"Ms. Mosby said she's anti-police brutality. We're all anti-police brutality. Nobody condones police brutality. Nobody thinks for one second that police brutality is acceptable. But this is not a case of police brutality," Belsky said. "It was never charged as such and it was never alleged to be such. So to mix that into the equation now is unfair to these officers and to the people of Baltimore City, who have very real issues that they have to deal with in terms of their interactions with the police."

krector@baltsun.com

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