Prosecutors in Baltimore have decided to drop dozens of additional criminal cases that relied on the testimony of eight city police officers indicted on federal racketeering charges, bringing the total to more than 100, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby’s office said Tuesday.
And they have dropped still more cases that relied on the testimony of officers in police body camera footage that critics say showed improper or questionable behavior.
Overall, more than 850 criminal cases in Baltimore “have been or potentially will be impacted” as a result of the federal racketeering case and three separate body-camera investigations, Mosby’s office said. Hundreds of cases are still being reviewed.
The figures were announced in a written statement released by Mosby’s office Tuesday evening. She was quoted as saying, “As prosecutors, we will remain vigilant in our pursuit of justice and we will continue to do our part to restore public trust and build confidence in the criminal justice system.”
The updated figures reflect the growing fallout from scandals that have cast the Baltimore Police Department in a negative light in recent months, just as it seeks to implement sweeping reforms under a court-enforced consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Mosby’s office said the figures are the result of local prosecutors’ efforts to “thoroughly evaluate” not only cases in which questionable police activity arises, but also every other criminal case that is dependent on the word of officers who have been involved in questionable activity.
Deborah Katz Levi, director of special litigation in the Baltimore public defender's office, which helped uncover some of the body-camera footage, said that while she applauds the “initial efforts” by Mosby’s office to address alleged police misconduct, prosecutors haven’t gone far enough.
“[We] believe their numbers are far too low and there are still far too many individuals incarcerated on tainted convictions,” Levi said. “The state's attorney's office refuses to disclose names of officers involved in the third video, and we think they are constitutionally obligated to do so. In addition, they have yet to disclose how they have arrived at these totals and our office has calculated much greater numbers of affected convictions. We continue to encourage transparency and dialogue as we work to undo as many tainted convictions as possible.”
T.J. Smith, a police spokesman, said police “are continuing to work to address the concerns that have been brought forth as a result of these situations.” Smith stressed the federal indictment and the three body camera cases are each “unique and independent of each other.” He said the cases involving body camera footage are “still being investigated and no criminal wrongdoing has been proven.”
Federal prosecutors charged seven officers in March and an eighth last month on federal racketeering charges, alleging they colluded to rob citizens, filed false court paperwork and put in for fraudulent overtime.
Over the course of the past several months, body-camera footage has come out from three separate incidents that prosecutors say raise significant questions about police conduct. Defense counsel have suggested officers can be seen planting evidence in the videos, while the Police Department has suggested the officers were merely “re-creating” legitimate discoveries of narcotics that they had forgotten to record.
Prosecutors have said the footage raises significant credibility issues for the officers involved, leading to the decisions to drop cases. At least one officer involved in one of the drug busts has argued in an internal memo to his superiors that the bust was entirely legitimate.
Similar credibility issues were raised for the indicted officers. Two of those officers have pleaded guilty; others maintain their innocence.
Because of the federal charges against officers, a total of 109 criminal cases have been dropped or will be dropped, Mosby’s office said.
Another 88 cases remain under review. Prosecutors have decided to move forward with four cases with links to the indicted officers, on the strength of other evidence.
As a result of the body camera footage, at least 213 cases have been dropped or will be dropped, and dozens more could be, Mosby’s office said.
At least another 170 cases — both closed and open — remain under review, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors have determined to move forward with at least 67 cases linked to the officers in the body-camera cases, on the strength of other evidence.
Mosby’s office has not described the cases involved or the nature of the crimes alleged in them.
David Rocah, senior attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said Tuesday evening that the numbers as released by Mosby’s office do not seem to add up, and were confusing.
He said the officers involved “have destroyed their credibility,” which Mosby’s office “seems to recognize.”
He also said he is “flabbergasted” by Police Commissioner Kevin Davis’ past suggestion that what the body-camera footage reveals is not the planting of evidence, but the recreation of legitimate drug discoveries.
Either way, it is “a huge problem” and is “still lying,” Rocah said, and “if any other actor in our justice system did it, even with the best of motivations, they would be prosecuted, disbarred, etc. Why are police held to a different standard?”
Rocah said he doesn’t understand why officers haven’t at least been charged administratively with violating police policies.
“The Police Department’s entire response to this has been so beyond inadequate, and has made clear that all the words spoken about the need to hold officers accountable mean absolutely nothing,” he said.