A Baltimore police officer charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray has filed a federal lawsuit against Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, alleging false arrest, false imprisonment and defamation, among other counts, according to federal court documents.
Lt. Brian Rice, one of six Baltimore officers charged in the Gray case, filed his lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Maryland on May 2, the same day two of the other officers — Sgt. Alicia White and Officer William Porter — filed a joint defamation lawsuit against Mosby in state Circuit Court. Documents in Rice's case were first unsealed on Monday.
Like White and Porter, whose lawsuit was unsealed in state court late last month, Rice is also suing Baltimore sheriff's office Maj. Sam Cogen, who signed off on the charging documents in the Gray case. Also like White and Porter, Rice claims in his lawsuit that Mosby and Cogen knew that he had committed no crime when they brought charges against him — including manslaughter, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office.
"His illegal arrest was made without probable cause and demonstrated ill will, improper motivation and/or evil purpose," Rice's lawsuit says.
Rice seeks in excess of $75,000 in compensatory damages and in excess of $75,000 in punitive damages from both Mosby and Cogen for each of five counts — false arrest, false imprisonment, violation of his rights under the Maryland Declaration of Rights, violation of his federal civil rights, and defamation of character. He also seeks legal fees.
Rochelle Ritchie, a spokeswoman for Mosby, and David Ellin, Rice's attorney in the lawsuit, both declined to comment on Rice's lawsuit, citing a gag order on attorneys in the officers' criminal cases. Maj. Sabrina Tapp-Harper, a sheriff's office spokeswoman, also declined to comment.
Gray, 25, died in April 2015, a week after he was arrested and placed in the back of a police van, where prosecutors say he suffered a fatal injury. His death sparked widespread protests, and his funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson.
In unsealing Rice's lawsuit, U.S. District Judge James K. Bredar cited Circuit Judge Althea Handy's decision to unseal White and Porter's lawsuit. Bredar wrote that Handy's decision rendered Rice's argument to keep his lawsuit sealed worthless, given "public access to parallel allegations" in state court.
"The court also recognizes the public interest in matters involving the conduct of public officials" such as Mosby and Cogen, Bredar wrote.
Legal experts have expressed skepticism about lawsuits against Mosby and Cogen, in part because prosecutors enjoy immunity from being sued except in instances where malicious intent can be shown.
Experts also cited the fact that several of the officers charged in the Gray case have already gone to trial — meaning the judge in that case, Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams, saw enough merit in the charges to hear them argued in court.
Rice is scheduled to go to trial on July 5, Porter on Sept. 6 and White on Oct. 13. Other officers are scheduled to be tried in the case before and in between those dates, including Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., whose trial begins Thursday.