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Ashley Overbey, pictured in February, said in a statement: “I stood up for what’s right and I am absolutely ecstatic about this ruling in favor of the people and their free speech rights.”
Ashley Overbey, pictured in February, said in a statement: “I stood up for what’s right and I am absolutely ecstatic about this ruling in favor of the people and their free speech rights.” (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

A federal appeals court denied a motion for a rehearing on Baltimore’s policy of requiring citizens to sign nondisclosure agreements in settlements of police misconduct cases.

The court denied the city’s request for another hearing on a July ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which found the practice unconstitutional.

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In a statement, Ashley Overbey, who brought the lawsuit against the city after it attempted to deny her some of her settlement money when she commented on her experience with police on social media, said the decision supports the public’s First Amendment rights: “I stood up for what’s right and I am absolutely ecstatic about this ruling in favor of the people and their free speech rights.”

The court ruled in July that the agreements equated to “hush money,” as Overbey argued the city improperly denied her half of her settlement after she responded to comments online about her experience with police.

According to the court’s written opinion, the Baltimore woman sued three police officers, alleging they beat, tased, verbally abused her and arrested her after she called 911 to report a burglary.

After The Baltimore Sun reported on the original settlement, Overbey responded to comments accusing her of initiating the arrest to get a big payout, recounting details of the arrest online.

The city claimed she violated the terms of her nondisclosure agreement and paid her half the money: $31,500.

She teamed up with local news website Baltimore Brew in June 2017 to sue the city over the policy. More than two dozen news media organizations, including The Baltimore Sun, joined the suit.

The judges wrote in July that that terms of the agreement were akin to a hush money payment, writing that the court has “never ratified the government’s purchase of a potential critic’s silence.”

On Twitter, the ACLU of Maryland wrote that Wednesday’s ruling is “Another victory for the free speech rights of the mostly Black + Brown residents of Baltimore who are survivors of police abuse!”

Baltimore Sun reporter Tim Prudente contributed to this article.

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