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People arrested in riots start appearing in court

People arrested during Baltimore's rioting have started appearing before judges and their cases offered thumbnail sketches of the chaos that broke out across the city Monday night into Tuesday.

In one court room at the John R. Hargrove Sr. courthouse in South Baltimore, a group of men appeared by video link from the Central Booking courthouse. Prosecutors and public defenders dueled over the right amount of bail for the men, foreshadowing arguments that could play out in the cases later.

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There was a man whose lawyer said he was riding in a hack taxi driven by a drunken driver. The unregulated taxi careened toward a police barricade and as the passenger ran away, the police stopped him, according to an account of the case presented in court. Police searched the hack, found a gun and determined that it belonged to the passenger. A judge ordered that he be held without bail.

Or the man who was caught with 10 others outside the Shoe City store at the Westside Shopping Center. Police said the men had looted Nikes. This particular man's lawyer said he was just walking home and was caught in the middle of the riot.

"The court cannot ignore the circumstances in which he was arrested," said Judge Jack Lesser. He said the man would have to post $10,000 if he wanted to be released on bail.

Or the father of three who police say had looted cigarettes and alcohol from a corner store and fled in a car with a woman. Police stopped the man, his lawyer said, but when an officer drove the car out of the way it caught fire, destroying all the evidence.

"This was an unusual evening in Baltimore," said Carol Johnson, the lawyer, as she urged a lower bail. Lesser ordered that the man post $15,000 before being released.

And another man was stopped by an officer patrolling for gang members and who suspected him of being a member of the Bloods. The man and two others rushed the officer, pinned him against a car and started choking him, then they attempted to take his gun. Two passersby tried to help the officer and were also attacked.

Johnson said a key detail of the case did not stack up. Over the video link she asked the man to stand up and show the clothes he was wearing — the same outfit he had on when he was arrested. He had on a blue and white shirt.

"My client is not wearing any red whatsoever," Johnson said, although she acknowledged that he might have been wearing a Chicago Bulls cap when he was arrested.

Lesser ordered that he be held without bail.

Cases were ongoing at Baltimore courtrooms Wednesday afternoon.

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