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Calling former Gun Trace Task Force officers to testify poses challenges for courthouse security

It’s not uncommon for police officers to be called to testify in court cases in which they were involved in the arrest.

But when those officers are the former members of the Baltimore Police Gun Trace Task Force, that presents added challenges for courthouse security.

Defense attorneys are challenging cases involving the former officers, who were convicted in recent months in a federal corruption case. Six officers pleaded guilty and two were convicted by a jury of racketeering and robbery, and defense attorneys are trying to impugn the officers’ credibility in other cases.

Questioning the officers at the Baltimore courthouse requires the U.S. Marshal’s Office, which transports federal prisoners, and the Baltimore Sheriff’s Office, which manages courthouse security, to make sure the officers are segregated from other prisoners and from each other.

“There are protective custody obligations in place to keep the former officers out of general population and separated from each other. These separations have been in place since their initial arrests,” said David Lutz, a spokesman with the U.S. Marshal’s Baltimore office.

The former Gun Trace Task Force officers were expected to testify last week in the case of Charles Smith, 51, who was charged with shooting and injuring a man in July 2016. Four of the former officers were involved in his arrest, and Smith’s attorney, Deborah Katz Levi, sought to question them about discrepancies in their accounts of that day and what Smith told investigators at the time. Prosecutors argued the corruption case against the officers would unfairly prejudice jurors, but the judge ruled in favor of the defense.

But ultimately, the officers were not called to testify. The judge dismissed the charges against Smith due to a discovery violation.

The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office said it continues to pursue charges in three cases involving the officers, but additional information about those cases was not available Friday. State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said her office has reviewed 284 cases involving the officers, about 200 of which have been dropped. Mosby said thousands of cases might be affected and that prosecutors are still reviewing them.

Baltimore Sun reporter Justin Fenton contributed to this story.

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