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"Where are you going to get a juror in this city that hasn't been tainted by this settlement and the media coverage?" said Union President Gene Ryan.
"Where are you going to get a juror in this city that hasn't been tainted by this settlement and the media coverage?" said Union President Gene Ryan. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake clashed with the city's police union president Wednesday over whether a $6.4 million civil settlement in the Freddie Gray case will hurt the six officers facing charges in his arrest and death.

Rawlings-Blake took issue with comments Lt. Gene Ryan made about the settlement when he called it a "ridiculous reaction" by the mayor.

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The mayor said Ryan's comments "continue to baffle me."

"What this settlement does is remove any civil liability from the six officers," Rawlings-Blake said at a news conference following the city's spending board's unanimous approval of the settlement.

"What this does is to ensure that at the end of the criminal trial, it is the end for those officers. Whatever the outcome of the trial is, that they know that on the other side of the litigation that there will be closure. If I am Gene Ryan, and believe in my heart that these officers are innocent, then … I would say, 'Thank you.' But he can't do that."

Six officers were charged with crimes ranging from murder to assault in the arrest and transport of Gray; all have pleaded not guilty. Gray, 25, died in April after sustaining a spinal cord injury in police custody.

A judge will hear arguments Thursday on whether to move their trials out of the city. Defense attorneys for the officers say they cannot get a fair trial in Baltimore because of the publicity surrounding the case.

Ryan said later Wednesday he feels strongly that the city's action could be detrimental to the officers involved in the Gray case.

"The mayor can spin this any way she wants," Ryan said. "My concern is that she has implicated guilt on our six officers."

Ryan said pushing for the early settlement – when there was "no urgency" for it – will bolster the arguments to move the case out of Baltimore.

He said potential jurors could reason that because the city settled the civil case, the mayor must know information that implicates the officers involved. Ryan also said some jurors may be angry that their tax dollars will be used to pay the settlement.

"Where are you going to get a juror in this city that hasn't been tainted by this settlement and the media coverage?" Ryan said. "Where are you go to get a just, unbiased and fair juror out of this pool?"

Ryan said the mayor could have "easily waited" to reach the civil settlement. He called on city residents to call Rawlings-Blake's office and the offices of all elected officials who represent the city to share their thoughts on her decision to settle the case.

ywenger@baltsun.com

twitter.com/yvonnewenger

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