Final charge dismissed from activist's arrest during protest in Freddie Gray case

Final charge against activist Kwame Rose from protest of officer's mistrial in Freddie Gray case dismissed

The last remaining charge against an activist arrested in December while protesting the trial of a Baltimore police officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray was dismissed on Monday, after a judge found his arrest was baseless, his legal team said.

Kwame Rose, 22, was arrested outside of the Baltimore Circuit Court building on Dec. 16, after a 12-member jury failed to reach a consensus on four counts against Officer William Porter, one of six officers charged in Gray's arrest and death. Rose, who had been using a bullhorn during the protest, was charged with obstructing vehicle traffic in front of the courthouse, obstructing pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk, disturbing the peace by using the bull horn, and failing to obey an order from law enforcement.

At trial on all four charges in Baltimore District Court in March, Rose — also referred to in court by his legal name, Darius Rosebrough — was found guilty of failing to obey a law enforcement order, but not guilty of the three underlying violations. He then appealed his lone conviction in Circuit Court.

Rose's legal team, including pro bono attorney Kenneth Ravenell and American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland attorney David Rocah, argued that there was no basis for the failure to obey charge, particularly given Rose's acquittal on all of the underlying charges.

Circuit Judge Videtta A. Brown agreed, dismissing the charge. Rose's attorneys said Tuesday that Brown also determined that the Baltimore Sheriff's Department's ban on bull horns outside the courthouse was overly broad and therefore unjustified.

"These charges never should have been brought in the first place, because they rested on the legally incorrect premise that the Sheriff has the authority to ban all use of amplified sound outside of the courthouse," Rocah said in a statement. "We hope the Judge's ruling will ensure that the Sheriff never seeks to enforce a similar unconstitutional ban again."

"This ruling affirms that our voices are being heard by certain parts of the judicial process," Rose said in his own statement. "However, justice has not become a reality for the family of Freddie Gray, and other victims of police brutality, and we must continue to voice our displeasure with the lack of accountability shown."

Major Sabrina Tapp-Harper, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, said Brown's ruling in Rose's case "warrants some further discussion" with Circuit Administrative Judge W. Michel Pierson about enforcing rules about noise in and around the courthouse.

"But in those incidents where we get official complaints from the bench about noise, and we give a warning and that warning is not adhered to, we still reserve the absolute right to make an arrest," Tapp-Harper said.

Rose became a prominent figure in the local activist community after Gray's death in April 2015 from injuries suffered in police custody. A video of Rose challenging the representation of the unrest in Baltimore after Gray's death by some media outlets went viral, and he has continued to voice his concerns about police brutality and abuse ever since, including throughout the trials of the officers charged in Gray's arrest and death.

Three of the officers whose cases went to trial were acquitted of all charges by Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams. Prosecutors then decided not to pursue the charges against the other three, including Porter.

krector@baltsun.com

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