Baltimore prosecutors have dropped all charges against nine people arrested last year after a raid on the Safe Streets violence intervention program office in East Baltimore turned up seven guns and drugs.
The arrests in July led to a suspension of the program, and most of the defendants have been jailed for the past eight months. They were to be released after the charges were dropped Tuesday.
In a statement Wednesday, prosecutors said they received "exculpatory information that called into question the identity of the defendants."
"We will continue to work with the Baltimore Police Department to investigate who is responsible for the robbery and the evidence found at the scene," they said.
Marshall Henslee, an attorney for defendant Gerald Reed, 19, said his client had no prior record. He said he believed prosecutors made the right decision.
"Even though my client was embarrassed and it affected his life that he was arrested in the first place, he's glad that they ultimately made the right decision," Henslee said.
Tyler Mann, who represented Safe Streets employee Ricky Evans, 36, said "there was no evidence connecting my client to the illegal items recovered."
"We're extremely pleased that the state took the time to investigate this case and made the right decision," Mann said.
Police said a robbery investigation led them to the East Monument Street office, where officers found guns, heroin, cocaine and other items used in the manufacture and sale of drugs.
Two of the guns were linked to at least two nonfatal shootings that had been committed earlier that month, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said in court documents. One gun was found hidden in the ceiling; others were found in a cabinet. A bag containing bullets was found in a plant pot.
Two Safe Streets employees who worked as "violence interrupters," Artez Harris, 39, and Evans, were among those arrested.
Safe Streets, a grant-funded program under the city's Health Department, uses ex-felons to help stem crime. The program has been lauded for keeping violence at a minimum in the neighborhoods in which it operates. It was recently expanded with a new site in Sandtown-Winchester.
Evans has been charged twice with murder and both times was acquitted. In 1999, he was found not guilty of conspiracy to commit murder in the death of 21-year-old Harry Brown in the first block of N. Streeper St. He was charged with first-degree murder in another case in 2002 and found not guilty three years later.
Charges were also dropped against Tavon Howard, 23; D'Aries Leggette, 22; David Warren, 23; and Sherri Jordan, 29.
Only Warren and Reed were able to post bond pending trial.
Barak Olds, 26, and Darren Brown, 24, were charged in connection with the assault and robbery in the incident that led police to the Safe Streets office. Those charges were also dropped.
The case was handled by Assistant State's Attorney Linda Ramirez, a longtime defense attorney who joined the state's attorney's office recently as a prosecutor.