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Fiance of Korryn Gaines acquitted of drug charges

Fiance of Korryn Gaines acquitted of drug charges
Kareem Courtney sits behind attorney J. Wyndal Gordon during a news conference last year. A trial for Courtneyon drug charges began Wednesday. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

A Baltimore County jury acquitted the fiance of Korryn Gaines on Thursday of all charges in a drug case stemming from her deadly standoff with county police.

Gaines, 23, was shot and killed by a tactical officer last August at her Randallstown apartment. A detective later found 75 capsules of heroin hidden in a plastic bag on top of a kitchen cabinet, police said.

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Her fiance, Kareem Courtney, 39, was charged with possession of heroin and possession with intent to distribute.

After the verdict Thursday, Courtney said he felt "like a heavy weight was lifted off" his shoulders.

He said he had been the target of "a witch hunt," at a time when he remained devastated by losing Gaines.

"It'll never be the same," he said. "I'm still grieving and really going through a lot."

His attorney suggested in closing arguments Thursday that the drug charges were a "distraction" from the police shooting.

Attorney J. Wyndal Gordon said Courtney was charged four days after his family was destroyed by Gaines' death.

"All of a sudden, Korryn Gaines is dead under questionable circumstances and then we find this bag of dope," he said. "I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but is there a cover-up at play?"

Gordon did not call any witnesses during the trial. He argued that Courtney did not live in the home, and there was no evidence he knew about the drugs.

Prosecutor Daniel Bernard Trimble said jurors needed to use common sense and look at "two very simple pieces of evidence."

"The drugs were there, and the defendant was there," he said.

It took jurors about 10 minutes to return the verdict, according to the lawyers involved in the case.

After the verdict, Trimble said prosecutors "certainly believed we had enough evidence to present to the jury that [Courtney] was there, that the drugs were there."

"There is absolutely no evidence that there was a cover-up," he said.

He noted that the defense had moved to suppress evidence based on an argument that the initial police entry into the apartment was improper. Judge Nancy M. Purpura denied that motion.

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Officers Allen Griffin and John Dowell testified they went to Gaines' home on the morning of Aug. 1 to serve warrants on Gaines and Courtney.

The warrant for Gaines was for her alleged failure to appear in court for charges from a traffic stop. The one for Courtney was for an alleged assault on Gaines.

Police said no one answered the door even though they heard noises from inside. After trying to open the door with a key from the rental office, an officer kicked in the door. Griffin said Gaines then pointed a shotgun at him.

Tactical officers were called, and an hours-long standoff ensued. Courtney left the apartment with the couple's young daughter and surrendered to police. Gaines remained in the home with her 5-year-old son.

A tactical officer, Royce Ruby Jr., shot and killed Gaines late that afternoon, police said. Her son was wounded.

Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger ruled that the shooting was legally justified. He said Ruby feared for his safety when Gaines pointed her gun at officers, and that Gaines fired back at police.

Gaines' family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Dowell, Griffin, Ruby and the county. A civil trial is scheduled for next year.

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