Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has begun asking the courts to throw out nearly 800 criminal cases handled by 25 city police officers, saying she found reason to distrust more than a dozen cops in addition to the eight convicted in the Gun Trace Task Force scandal.
These additional officers had not previously been disclosed by her office. Three of them remain with the Baltimore Police, a police spokesman said. The three are Robert Hankard, a detective in central Baltimore; Kenneth Ivery, a sergeant in Southwest Baltimore; and Jason Giordano, a sergeant in the citywide robbery unit. Hankard has been suspended. They did not respond to a message to the department.
The number of officers involved fluctuates as her office continues to investigate, Mosby said on Friday while clarifying that the total number of officers is 25, not the 22 in the initial release. Mosby said her office’s assessment of cases “is not over, this is just the first phase,” and that more cases could be dismissed as her attorneys gather more information.
She said that all of the names her office released this week are included in court filings by her attorneys to vacate the nearly 800 cases handled by the tainted officers.
At least seven other unnamed officers are connected to the dismissed cases. Mosby declined to identify them, saying they may remain under federal investigation. She directed questions to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore. A spokeswoman there declined to comment.
At least 10 officers cited have resigned; one retired and one was fired. One other officer, Detective Sean Suiter, was shot to death nearly two years ago in West Baltimore. Most of these men have not been charged with a crime, but nearly all were named in testimony during the federal Gun Trace Task Force trial. Mosby says her office has no choice; the integrity of their cases is compromised.
Mosby’s office said it draws no distinction between the eight convicted officers and the rest.
“When you have sworn police officers involved in egregious and long-standing criminal activity such as planting guns and drugs, stealing drugs and money, selling drugs, making illegal arrests, and bringing false charges, our legal and ethical obligation in the pursuit of justice leaves us no other recourse but to ‘right the wrongs’ of unjust convictions associated with corrupt police officers,” Mosby wrote in an email.
Prosecutors began asking the courts this week to undo nearly 800 convictions that hinged on investigations by or testimony from these 25 officers.
Eight of the 25 are former members of the gun squad, those who were convicted of racketeering crimes and sentenced to federal prison for terms ranging from seven to 25 years. Six of those task force members accepted plea deals; two were convicted at trial. During the trial, the officers testified about their crimes and implicated other cops who have not been charged. They admitted to stealing money from citizens, lying on paperwork and bilking the city for unearned overtime pay — some even claimed overtime for hours they spent on vacation.
“Police corruption is a hindrance to public safety, puts the lives of hard working and dedicated officers at risk, and limits our ability as prosecutors to deliver justice.”— State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby
The scandal continues to reverberate across the city. Mosby’s office launched an exhaustive effort to review thousands of arrests made by the rogue squad and those implicated at trial. Prosecutors began filing papers this week asking the courts to throw out the tainted cases. She says her office found 790 cases to be compromised. Lawyers plan to file papers in 200 cases a week.
A judge will consider their request to erase the bad convictions after 30 days. These hearings will be held each afternoon.
“It is still very early in the process, and we are hopeful for the swift vacatur of all of the many tainted convictions,” said Melissa Rothstein, spokeswoman for the Office of the Public Defender in Baltimore.
Included in the 25 officers is former Detective John Clewell, the lone member of the Gun Trace Task Force not charged with a crime. Clewell has maintained he took no part in his squad’s crimes.
The list also mentions former officers Michael Sylvester, Tariq Edwards and Matthew Ryckman. They have not been charged. The three men resigned from the department and could not be reached for comment.
Two others on the list, retired Sgt. Keith Gladstone and Detective Carmine Vignola, have admitted to a scheme to plant a BB gun to cover up for the leader of the gun squad. Both men pleaded guilty in federal court and await sentencing. Gladstone faces as much as 10 years; Vignola, five years. Federal prosecutors have given no indication how far the scandal will reach.
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Last year, Mosby pushed the legislature to expanded her authority to erase the tainted cases.
“Police corruption is a hindrance to public safety, puts the lives of hard working and dedicated officers at risk, and limits our ability as prosecutors to deliver justice,” she wrote.
Mosby partnered with Del. Erek Barron, a Prince George’s County Democrat and former prosecutor, to back a state bill granting her authority to vacate the old convictions. Judges had been denying such motions on the grounds that there was no legal basis for a prosecutor to make such a request. Mosby told state lawmakers that this legal hurdle hindered efforts to right the wrongs of the Gun Trace Task Force.
The General Assembly passed the bill last session, and the new law took effect Oct. 1. Mosby says her office filed motions in 79 cases that first day. Now public defenders are praising her efforts.
“Previously, there was no mechanism to get the convictions undone en masse or quickly,” Rothstein said. “We are impressed with how swiftly they are taking advantage of the new law. Whatever we can do to support their efforts, we will.”
Meanwhile, City Solicitor Andre Davis has expressed concern that the city will face an onslaught of lawsuits from defendants in the cases. More than a dozen people have already sued, and dozens more have given notice of their intent to sue. City officials are bracing for payouts that could cost tens of millions of dollars.
Attorneys for Baltimore are arguing in state and federal court that taxpayers shouldn’t be responsible for paying for the officers’ crimes.
An earlier version of this story included incorrect information about Robert Hankard's status with the Baltimore Police Department. He has been suspended. The Sun regrets the error.