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Man who sued Baltimore officer for false arrest settles for $200,000

A man who accused former Baltimore police officer David Reeping of false arrest to settle the lawsuit for $200,000.
A man who accused former Baltimore police officer David Reeping of false arrest to settle the lawsuit for $200,000. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

A Defense Department analyst who accused a Baltimore police officer of false arrest in 2010 has agreed to settle his civil lawsuit for $200,000, city records show.

One fact in the case differs from most other lawsuits against Baltimore officers: The plaintiff, Jamal Butler, said during a trial last year that the officer did not physically assault him. Still, the jury awarded damages totaling $272,790. The city appealed the jury verdict, but before a judge ruled, the parties reached a settlement.

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A summary of Butler's lawsuit against then-Officer David Reeping — who has been part of two other settlements — is listed in the Law Department's online database of police lawsuits.

In 2014, Butler told a jury that Reeping said he was under arrest "for being a black smart ass" while standing in front of Crazy John's on East Baltimore Street. Butler spent about 12 hours in jail and missed a day of work before a prosecutor dropped the charges.

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"It's unbelievable," Reeping said Tuesday about the settlement. "He had no injuries at all. You get $200,000, for what?"

The Board of Estimates must approve the settlement, which the city will pay. In such settlements, neither the city nor the officer acknowledges wrongdoing.

City officials, including Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Solicitor George Nilson, have said it is best to settle some cases to avoid legal costs. The Fraternal Order of Police has accused city officials of settling lawsuits too fast and urged them to take cases to trial.

Butler and his lawyer, James Rhodes, did not respond to requests for comment.

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A Baltimore Sun investigation last fall into lawsuits against city police found that the highest settlements went to individuals or relatives of those who were killed or suffered severe injuries in encounters with officers. The investigation also showed that the city lacked a system to track officers named in multiple lawsuits.

Butler's lawsuit included allegations of battery, false arrest and false imprisonment.

Butler testified that the arrest, which has since been expunged, remained in his personnel file at the Pentagon and could hinder his ability to get jobs with higher security clearances. He earned about $29 an hour. The nature of his work, he said, required him to notify his bosses about the arrest.

"It has impacted me significantly," he told jurors. "When I'm competing for the other positions ... I could be disqualified."

During cross-examination, Butler testified that he did not file a complaint about Reeping.

Reeping said he arrested Butler because he refused to either go inside a business or keep moving. A city law forbids loitering on that street.

Of the $272,790 the jury awarded Butler, $231 went toward economic damages for the day of missed work. Another $130,000 went for false imprisonment; $75,000 for malicious prosecution; $10,000 for false arrest; $5,000 for battery; and $52,560 for violating state rights.

Judge Wanda Keyes Heard said Tuesday that she would have reduced the award, but declined to say by how much.

A Maryland law generally caps such awards at $200,000.

The settlement is the third involving Reeping, who served on the police force from 2007 to 2011. He was convicted in the 2011 towing scandal and spent eight months at the minimum-security Federal Correctional Institution Terre Haute, Ind.

At trial, Butler's lawyer repeatedly asked Reeping about his criminal conviction and departure from the Police Department. In an interview with The Sun last fall, Reeping said he believed that his extortion conviction swayed jurors. "What other reason would it be? I didn't lay a hand on him."

Taxpayers have paid two other settlements in cases against Reeping.

Two men who alleged that Reeping beat one of them while handcuffed in a 2009 arrest split a $47,500 settlement. Neither man was charged with a crime.

A year later, a woman alleged that Reeping pulled her from the back of a car and broke her wrist under the Jones Falls Expressway. She went to jail for about 12 hours but did not face charges. Reeping said the woman fell because she had on high heels, records show. The city settled the case for $24,000 in February 2014.

In the towing scandal, officers illegally channeled the owners of broken-down and damaged vehicles to Majestic Auto Repair in Rosedale in exchange for cash, according to federal court records. In some cases, officers falsified police reports and added damage to cars to boost the amounts that could be claimed from insurance companies.

Reeping has tried unsuccessfully to get his job back, alleging that he was targeted by investigators to ensure that a white officer was charged in addition to the large number of Hispanic officers accused in the towing scam.

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