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Baltimore City's liability in Gun Trace Task Force lawsuits to be decided case by case

A Baltimore judge has thrown out a request by city attorneys seeking to ensure taxpayers won’t be responsible for lawsuits against the rogue cops of the Gun Trace Task Force.

The dismissal last week by Baltimore Circuit Judge Gregory Sampson sets the stage for judges to decide case by case if the city is liable, City Solicitor Andre Davis said.

He had sought a preemptive ruling to strengthen protections for the city. Sampson, however, wrote that he could not grant such a request without hearing from the plaintiffs themselves.

Interactive: Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force corruption case timeline »

And yet, it remains largely unknown who is going to sue. Davis said about 10 people have sued so far. More than 60 others have filed notices that they intend to sue, he said. And hundreds more may sue in the months and years ahead.

“We have no idea how many,” Davis said. “It could be 2020, 2021 and we’re still getting lawsuits.”

The judge’s ruling means that if a citizen wins against the officers, attorneys would then argue whether or not the city has to pay, Davis said.

“If I represented a victim,” he said, “I would want to know sooner rather than later whether the city is required to pay the judgments.”

Eight former members of the Gun Trace Task Force were convicted of racketeering and sentenced to federal prison. The officers — six accepted plea deals, two were convicted — stole money from citizens, lied on paperwork and bilked the city for unearned overtime pay. They are serving prison sentences that range from seven to 25 years.

Davis has argued that the officers’ conduct was so far outside their job duties that an agreement with the police union to cover lawsuit damages should not apply.

Attorneys representing the officers did not return messages.

tprudente@baltsun.com

twitter.com/Tim_Prudente

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