Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby named 91 former and current city police officers Friday that she says can’t be trusted to testify in court, answering years of calls that her office publish its internal list of trouble cops.
Her “do-not-call list” is comprised largely of ex-cops, officers already known for their misdeeds, even some in federal prison. Fewer than a third of these officers remain employed with the Baltimore Police today. The list doesn’t include hundreds more cops who have been accused of misconduct, but not necessarily found guilty by the courts or internal affairs investigators.
In a statement, Mosby said her office’s work to compile and publish the list demonstrates a commitment to transparency and accountability in a city long plagued by scandal in the police ranks. Still, the list falls short of satisfying defense attorneys who have demanded the names of bad cops and even sued for Mosby’s list.
The list identifies those officers who prosecutors say have been convicted of crimes of dishonesty or abused their authority and therefore shouldn’t be called to testify at trial. She published her list at the same time Prince George’s County State Attorney Aisha Braveboy released her own “do-not-call list” with names of 57 Prince George’s cops.
Mosby said she trusts a majority of Baltimore police, but when officers are convicted of crimes it compromises the work of her prosecutors.
“In order to restore trust and strengthen confidence in law enforcement, we must preserve the integrity of the justice system by being transparent and accountable to the communities we serve,” she said in the statement.
Public defenders, activist lawyers and news reporters have sought Mosby’s list ever since she told a crowd two years ago that her office tracks these cops.
Twenty-six of the officers listed are employed currently with the Baltimore Police Department. Twenty-four of the 91 officers have pending criminal cases in either the city or Baltimore, Anne Arundel or Harford Counties. Baltimore Police currently employ 2,361 sworn officers.
Defense attorneys want the list to fight cases in which these officers made an arrest or participated in an investigation. The released list, however, left many of them unsatisfied Friday, particularly the activist lawyers who sued Mosby’s to turn over the names.
“Who gives a sh-- about a list of Gun Trace Task Force, publicly convicted and retired officers. We know they won’t be testifying ... this is just performative transparency,” said Matt Zernhelt, legal director of the nonprofit Baltimore Action Legal Team, which sued for the list.
Mosby’s list has many familiar names to those who track police misconduct in Baltimore, from members of the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force to other officers who’ve been accused of assault, planting evidence or lying. The list also names officers accused of crimes off-duty, including driving while under the influence and possessing child pornography.
Defense attorneys want yet another list kept internally by Mosby’s office that tracks officers who have faced allegations of misconduct but have not been found guilty or their complaints have not been substantiated. Mosby has referred to this as a “disclosure” list — or matrix — with more than 300 names. When one of these officers comes up in a criminal case, prosecutors will share the particular allegation with the defense attorney, but prosecutors still may call the officer to testify in court.
“Many have allegations that were unfounded and unsubstantiated. It would therefore be unfair and unethical to publicly release those names‚” said Zy Richardson, Mosby’s spokeswoman. “However, we will continue to inform and provide access to defense counsel in each case regarding these officers.”
Zernhelt said he will continue to try to obtain those names.
“Even if an officer wasn’t convicted, that’s still exculpatory evidence,” he said. “We sued for the 305 list. At the end of the day, we’re still waiting for her to follow the law.”
The Baltimore Police said the department recently received Mosby’s “do-not-call list” and a spokeswoman confirmed 26 of the names as active duty.
“We have verified the list and have already taken the appropriate action on all of the active members to ensure that police powers are suspended, trial boards are moving forward or have taken place and referrals for criminal investigations have been made, where appropriate,” spokeswoman Lindsey Eldridge said.
The list includes Offcer Eric Banks Jr., who’s charged with murdering his 15-year-old stepson; Wayne Jenkins, who’s serving 25 years in federal prison as the ringleader of the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force; and Michael O’Sullivan, who got 15 months in prison for lying in court about a criminal case. Another one of the officers, Detective Sherrod Biggers, has sued to clear his name after Harford County prosecutors dropped misconduct charges against him last year.
Last year, lawyers with the nonprofit Baltimore Action Legal Team sued Mosby under open records laws to compel her to turn over the list. Mosby said she wanted to in the interests of transparency, but she and her attorneys argued they were bound by an exemption for personnel records in the Maryland Public Information Act. Two weeks ago, the Maryland Court of Special appeals ruled that exemption did not apply.
Meanwhile, new state laws took effect Oct. 1 lifting the confidentiality of police misconduct records. Mosby has said her office prepared to release the names once the law took effect.
Deborah Katz Levi, the director of special litigation for the public defender’s office, called Mosby’s “do-not-call list” incomplete without the additional officers requiring disclosures. She referred to testimony Mosby made two years ago to the state Commission to Restore Trust in Policing that the disclosure matrix of 305 officers includes men and women with integrity issues such as theft, planting evidence, perjury and fraud.
“We know of more than a dozen officers who meet the criteria the State’s Attorney specified who were omitted, and have no doubt that there are many more,” Levi said in a statement.
Levi said she knows of a homicide detective found to have committed perjury who’s not on list released Friday. Another officer made a false statement and he’s not on the list, she said.
“Real justice will not be served and the requirements of the court will not be fulfilled until the State’s Attorney releases her entire matrix of officers with credibility issues,” she said.
Mosby circulated the list Friday among her prosecutors and asked them to check their cases for any of the officers. A preliminary review by public defenders found the officers had a hand in about 800 open cases, they said.
Mosby also explained her procedures for how names would be added or removed from the “do-not-call list.”
Officers are added after they are convicted of a crime involving dishonesty or proven to have abused their authority, according to the protocols. Other names are temporarily added when an officer has a pending criminal case or faces credible allegations of dishonesty or the abuse of powers.
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The names are recommended after a majority vote by a committee of Mosby’s deputies and chief attorney for the office. In general, the committee does not consider conduct that occurred more than a decade ago. Mosby makes the final decision on the names. The committee meets every 90 days to recommend adding or removing names.
Anne Arundel State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess said her office, like many others in the counties, does not maintain a “do-not-call list” but uses a notification system.
Her office’s case management system maintains information on witnesses, including officers who have disclosure material. When an officer is entered as witness, Leitess said, the system sends a notification about any possible information that must be disclosed to defense attorneys.
State law requires prosecutors to disclose information that relates to an officer’s honesty, integrity or bias to defense attorneys.
Leitess said her office decides on a case-by-case basis whether such officers should or should not testify. In some circumstances, an officer’s testimony might be crucial to a case despite any outstanding complaints, she said.
“What happens if an officer has an issue and they are the officer who finds the murder weapon?” she said.
In Philadelphia, a judge ordered District Attorney Larry Krasner three years ago to turn over a “do not call list” compiled by a previous administration to the city’s defense attorneys. In New York City, the Bronx District Attorney also released its list of problem officers.