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Crime

Baltimore spending board approves $575,000 settlement, bringing total paid for Gun Trace Task Force claims to $15.5 million

Baltimore’s spending board approved a $575,000 settlement Wednesday stemming from an arrest made by members of the city’s Gun Trace Task Force, bringing the total paid out as a result of the rogue force’s actions to more than $15 million.

The five-member Board of Estimates voted unanimously in favor of the settlement reached with Darnell Earl, who sued the Baltimore Police Department and three members of the task force over a 2015 arrest that resulted in a year and a half of jail time.

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Earl was a passenger in a car in October 2015 in the 1900 block of Monument Street that was stopped by police officers Marcus Taylor, Evodio Hendrix and Wayne Jenkins, according to Baltimore Deputy Solicitor Ebony Thompson. Following the stop, the officers said they found a firearm under Earl’s seat. Earl had prior convictions for illegal possession of a gun and was charged with multiple firearms-related offenses as a result of the stop. He pleaded guilty to one charge, law officials said.

After revelations that the task force routinely violated people’s rights and stole drugs and money using the authority of their badge, Taylor, Hendrix and Jenkins pleaded guilty to federal charges. Earl’s conviction, along with many others related to the force, was vacated due to credibility issues with the officers.

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Earl sued the department in 2020, alleging numerous violations of state and federal law, arguing there was no probable cause for the traffic stop and that the gun was planted in the vehicle by the officers. Several counts and defendants were dismissed, Thompson told the board Wednesday, but allegations of malicious prosecution, fabrication of evidence and negligent supervision remained, she said.

“Given the considerations I stated, the time and expenses of getting this matter though trial, the potential exposure from a plaintiff’s verdict and the continual accrual of plaintiff’s fees, we’re requesting $575,000 for settlement in this matter,” Thompson said.

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“These lawsuits exemplify the need for us to continue this administration’s efforts in rebuilding the trust of our police department,” Thompson added.

Thompson, who faced questions about pension payouts to Gun Trace Task Force members during a previous settlement vote in August, said Taylor, Hendrix and Jenkins do not receive pensions from the city and are not eligible. Taylor, who was sentenced to 18 years behind bars, remains in federal prison in Arkansas. Jenkins, sentenced to 25 years, is being held in Kentucky. Hendrix, sentenced to seven years, was released in February.

Comptroller Bill Henry, a member of the board, questioned whether former Sgt. Thomas Allers, who ran the corrupt task force and pleaded guilty to participating in nine robberies, was receiving a pension. Thompson said he is. Allers, sentenced to 15 years, is being held at a federal prison in Florida.

The settlement approved Wednesday brings the total paid out by the city for settlements related to the task force to $15.48 million. The largest of those settlements, $7.9 million, was paid to Umar Burley and Brent Matthews, who both went to federal prison for drugs that were planted in their vehicle in 2010. That amount eclipsed the settlement paid to the family of Freddie Gray in 2015.

The remaining $7.48 million was paid out across 34 additional settlements, averaging about $220,000 per case, Thompson told the board.

Four additional lawsuits related to the task force remain active, two of which pose “serious financial risk,” Thompson said.

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City officials are aware of four additional unfiled claims that are within the statute of limitations, she said.


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