When Circuit Judge Timothy Doory undid more criminal convictions tainted by Baltimore's corrupt Gun Trace Task Force on Friday, one defendant stood out.
"Out of all the crap we've been dealing with," Doory said, "he's the only one who took an Alford plea."
Kendell English entered the plea to a gun charge in December 2016, as federal authorities were bearing down on the gun unit. Three months later, eight officers were charged with racketeering, and cases that relied on their word have been unraveling ever since.
Many of the defendants who were arrested by the unit entered guilty pleas. English was one of the few to file an Alford plea, in which a defendant maintains innocence, but acknowledges there is enough evidence to convict them.
That piqued the interest of Doory, who said he wanted to question English about the events that led to the conviction. But attorneys involved in the proceedings said they hadn't been able to find him.
"There's a lot of explaining [needed] on both sides," Doory said.
The Sun tracked English down after the hearing. He said he disputed the accusations at the time, but felt the deck was stacked against him.
He said his attorney "was basically telling me that if I go to trial, it's going to be my word against the four officers. That's when the state's attorney said they'd drop it [the plea offer] from five years to three years, and it had already been going on for a year. I just took it."
English was sentenced to three years and paroled in October. He remained on supervision at the time of Thursday's hearing.
English's fiance remembers the officers bursting into their home in July 2015 without knocking. Keysha Reaves said she was watching TV — "my stories" — when they came through the door.
"They had guns out, asking me who was in here," she said. "I'm like, 'Me and my fiance. He's upstairs asleep. He just took his medicine. He's asleep.'"
Reaves said the officers put handcuffs on her and went upstairs. She heard "some tussling."
English said the officers told him they had been watching him for five days and saw him selling marijuana.
"They had a weapon and put it on me," English said. "I've never seen the weapon."
English said there were no witnesses to help him dispute the account of the police, and he had no choice but to take the best offer.
Assistant State's Attorney Tony Gioia said the case relied on the observations of Det. Jemell Rayam.
Rayam pleaded guilty to racketeering and is awaiting sentencing. He has admitted to years of stealing and deception, but testified that he never planted evidence.
Questions had been raised about Rayam long before federal authorities began investigating the Gun Trace Task Force. Judge Barry Williams said in 2015 that Rayam was not credible. He was accused by police internal affairs of lying about being part of a $10,000 theft in 2010. But prosecutors continued to bring his cases and police kept him in the elite unit.
On Thursday, Gioia told Doory that prosecutors "cannot under any circumstances vouch for [Rayam's] credibility."
English said he was relieved that the case had been overturned. The public defender's office said it would assist English with getting it expunged from his criminal record.
"I'm happy," English said. "I'm happy."