The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked a lawsuit against Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby brought by five city police officers who claimed she maliciously prosecuted them after the death in 2015 of Freddie Gray.
Monday's ruling by the federal appeals court overturned a January 2017 decision by U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis, who ruled at the time that charges including malicious prosecution, defamation and invasion of privacy could move forward against Mosby and Assistant Baltimore City Sheriff Samuel Cogen, who wrote the statement of probable cause in the case. Garbis dismissed other counts, including false arrest and false imprisonment.
Gray, 25, suffered a severe spinal injury while in police custody on April 12, 2015, and died a week later. Mosby charged six officers involved in his arrest and transport with criminal counts including manslaughter and second-degree murder. Three were acquitted by a judge of all charges, and Mosby dropped the remaining cases.
Five of the officers — Lt. Brian Rice, Sgt. Alicia White and Officers Edward Nero, Garrett Miller and William Porter — filed suit in civil court for what they say was a malicious prosecution. Their lawyers claim Mosby didn't have enough evidence and charged them to ease the unrest that followed his death.
Mosby's lawyers argued that as a prosecutor, Mosby was immune from the lawsuit.
The federal appeals court agreed.
"We resoundingly reject the invitation to cast aside decades of Supreme Court and circuit precedent to narrow the immunity prosecutors enjoy," Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote in the court's opinion. "And we find no justification for denying Mosby the protection from suit that the Maryland legislature has granted her.
"That the Officers disagree with Mosby's decision to prosecute — as most defendants do — or with the information in the application for Statement of Charges — which inherently contains defamatory information — does not entitle them to litigate their disagreement in court, and much less recover damages," Gregory wrote.
Attorneys with the Maryland Attorney General's Office represented Mosby in the lawsuit. A spokeswoman with the office deferred comment to Mosby's office.
"I support the court's opinion that the people of Baltimore elected me to deliver one standard of justice for all, and that using the legal system to reach a fair and just resolution to Gray's death was not a political move, but rather it was my duty," Mosby said in an emailed statement.
Attorneys for the officers could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon. But Lt. Gene Ryan, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3, the local union that represents police, questioned the court's decision.
"She maliciously prosecuted the officers and abused the authority of her office because if she would have looked at the evidence, she would have realized that she didn't have the evidence to support the charges that she placed on those six officers," Ryan said.
The officers have 90 days to submit a petition to the Supreme Court to hear the case, according to court documents.