Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said Thursday that her office will work to overturn any criminal convictions since 2015 that relied solely on the word of seven city police officers recently indicted on federal racketeering charges.
"Understanding and recognizing that the credibility of these officers has now been directly called into question, it is incumbent upon us as ministers of justice to do what's right and to pursue justice over convictions while simultaneously prioritizing public safety," Mosby said.
Her office has already identified 150 closed cases that are "possibly tainted" by the involvement of the officers, including 45 in which the defendants are incarcerated, she said.
She did not discuss individual cases. Officials said many involve alleged gun crimes, as the indicted officers were all members of an elite Gun Trace Task Force. The unit had been repeatedly praised by the department for taking a large number of guns off the streets at a time when gun violence has claimed lives at a historic rate in the city.
City Councilman Brandon Scott, chair of the Public Safety Committee, called Mosby's review "the epitome of fairness and unfairness at the same time." Defendants cleared of charges likely will include innocent victims of the officers, he said, but also criminals who are guilty of committing violence.
"If we have these officers out here doing these atrocious things ... we have to deal with the consequences. That's only fair," Scott said. "But when you talk about cases that can involve illegal guns and people being shot and the trauma for those people and their families, it's also unfair."
"That's why it shows we must have integrity at every level" of the criminal justice system, Scott said, "because when that trust is violated by someone who is sworn to uphold the law, this is the kind of collateral damage we get."
A team of prosecutors is now assessing the cases individually to see if they hold up without the testimony of the indicted officers, Mosby said.
If prosecutors "cannot identify additional, independent, corroborative evidence separate and apart from the credibility of these officers" — such as forensic evidence, videos, or statements from other witnesses — they will join with the Office of the Public Defender or the defendant's private counsel to file joint motions to vacate the convictions, Mosby said.
Cases in which defendants are incarcerated will be given priority, she said.
In addition to the adjudicated cases, Mosby said her office also identified 50 active cases for review, and has already dropped the charges in more than 30 of them. Another 18 are set to be "resolved" by next week, she said.
Thirteen of the active cases involved incarcerated defendants, Mosby said. Ten have had their charges dropped and have been released. Mosby did not identify those defendants or describe the charges on which they had been awaiting trial.
Baltimore deputy public defender Natalie Finegar said Mosby's "consent to dismiss these cases was a necessary response to the allegations against the indicted officers" but falls short of restoring justice to all those arrested by the indicted officers over the course of many years.
Since Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein announced the officers' indictments March 1, city prosecutors have been dropping charges as cases involving the indicted officers came to court. On Friday, they dropped the first charges related to an adjudicated case, after a judge granted a defendant arrested by two of the officers a new trial.
Mosby has said her office had no way of knowing the officers' trustworthiness was in doubt and was not privy to the federal investigation. Defense attorneys in the city, including public defenders, have said several of the officers have been the subject of complaints for years.
The seven officers — Sgt. Wayne Jenkins and detectives Momodu Gondo, Evodio Hendrix, Daniel Hersl, Jemell Rayam, Marcus Taylor and Maurice Ward — are accused of shaking down citizens, filing false court paperwork and making fraudulent overtime claims, all while Justice Department investigators were scrutinizing the department for what they concluded were widespread civil rights violations.
All seven have pleaded not guilty, and were ordered held in detention pending trial. Their attorneys have argued they are innocent, brave men who dedicated their lives to protecting some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Baltimore by taking hardened criminals off the streets.
T.J. Smith, a police spokesman, said the Police Department is committed to assisting Mosby's office with its review of cases.
Smith said it is "frustrating anytime charges are dropped," but police "trust that the reviews are being carefully done."
Finegar questioned why Mosby's review of cases only goes back to 2015, and said her office remains committed to "seeking justice" for the "thousands of other Baltimore residents" who "had their lives interrupted, and often destroyed, by these officers' wrongdoing in cases that predate 2015 and in cases where the sentence is over but the conviction still impacts the ability to get a job or a home."
Finegar also said Mosby's office should be working to improve how it identifies problematic, untrustworthy officers and discloses such concerns to defense attorneys. If it does not, she said, a similar situation could develop in the future with other problematic officers.
"If we don't revamp the system, we're just going to be in this position again and again and again," Finegar said.
Mosby said her office is looking at cases dating to 2015 because that is the time frame covered by the allegations in the federal indictment. She said her office already discloses concerns about officers' credibility to defense attorneys.
She stressed that not every case involving the indicted officers would be dropped.
"Just because one of the officers was tangentially involved in a defendant's case, this does not constitute an immediate means to be released from incarceration, nor does it mean that we will automatically seek to vacate the conviction," she said. "This is a matter of public safety, and we want to ensure that those that legally deserve to be incarcerated serve their sentence and pay their debt to society."
Anyone with information about a case they believe should be reviewed can email Mosby's office at email@example.com, she said.