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Curfew Charges To Be Dropped Against Baltimore Protesters Over Technicality

Baltimore Deputy Public Defender Natalie Finegar wrote in a court motion that the power to institute a curfew rests with the governor, not with the city's mayor. Those accused of other crimes, such as disorderly conduct or assault, could still be prosecuted.

Originally posted on
Updated on

Here's The Latest:

  • Charges will be dropped against those who were arrested on suspicion of violating a curfew over questions whether the mayor had the authority to institute the order.
  • Lawyers for the six officers charged in Freddie Gray's death have filed motions arguing that State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby has too many conflicts of interest to prosecute the case. They also argued proper procedures weren't followed and want the charges dropped.
  • Attorney General Loretta Lynch also announced a Justice Department investigation into the Baltimore Police Department.
  • Last week, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged six police officers for their involvement in Gray's death.
  • Thursday Maryland congressional representatives sent a letter to Lynch in support of a probe into the Baltimore Police Department.
  • The legal moves come after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died April 19 from injuries he sustained while in police custody.

Updates

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City prosecutors will drop curfew violation charges against dozens of people arrested in Baltimore following the riots, the Baltimore Sun reported.

People who were arrested on suspicion of additional offenses — such as disorderly conduct or assault — could still face prosecution, the city attorney's office told the newspaper.

Charges agnst those arrested for curfew to be dropped; public defender says there wasnt a penalty spelled out anyway http://t.co/DdZcAnkGZo

The dropped charges come as one public defender questioned whether Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake had the authority to call a curfew in the first place.

That power belongs to the governor, Baltimore Deputy Public Defender Natalie Finegar wrote in a motion.

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On Sunday night, Prince held a concert in Baltimore and released a song named after the city.

The concert was streamed on Tidal, Jay-Z's new streaming service.

Some of the proceeds from the concert, called Rally 4 Peace, will be donated to "local Baltimore based youth charities," a statement on the concert said.

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The "Blue Lives Matter" website, a riff on the "Black lives matter" chant used by civil rights campaigners, says the six have endured "the worst vilification imaginable."

"The Baltimore Six, each of them, took an oath to protect and to serve, precisely their goal during their interaction with Freddie Gray. For that, they and their innocent families, who sacrificed so much because they were police, now live a nightmare. They supported our community, doing a job few have the courage or ability to do. Now they need our support," the site reads.

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The six Baltimore officers charged in Freddie Gray's death have announced plans to sue the city for $75,000 each.

In letters dated May 7, attorneys for the officers argue that there is no evidence to support the charges, which include second-degree murder.

The letters also mention the knife Gray was carrying at the time of his arrest. Prosecutors have said the knife was legal to carry, but reports from the incident described it as being "spring-assisted," which would make it illegal.

"If in fact the knife was illegal, as the above-referenced individuals contend that it was, then the underlying facts for the basis of the Statement of Charges against the police officers would be false," the letters state.

In addition to demanding $75,000, plus interest, the letters also demand all relevant records related to the case.

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Attorneys for the six Baltimore police officers charged in Freddie Gray's death filed motions Friday asking that the case be dismissed, or to at least have prosecutor Marilyn Mosby removed.

Uncredited / AP

The six officers charged in Freddie Gray's death, top row from left: Caesar Goodson Jr., Garrett Miller, and Edward Nero. Bottom row from left: William Porter, Brian Rice, and Alicia D. White.

In asking that Mosby at least be removed as prosecutor, attorneys contend that her public statements have revealed a "political and personal motivation" in the case. The motion further argues that Mosby has betrayed the Constitution and has multiple conflicts of interest.

"Rarely in the history of any criminal case has a prosecutor so directly maintained so many conflicts of interest," the motion states. "Rarer still are instances where such clear conflicts exist and a prosecutor steadfastly refuses to recuse him or herself."

The motion argues that the conflicts include "political and personal gain by Mrs. Mosby and her husband," "personal relationships" with trial witnesses, her friendship with the attorney representing Gray, among others.

The other motion alleges authorities did not follow proper procedures when filing the charges. Attorneys argue that on May 1, a member of the Baltimore City Sheriff's Office prepared a charging document for Officer William Porter, then presented that document to a district court commissioner. Just 13 minutes later, an arrest warrant was issued for Porter.

According to the motion, that timeline was too fast for the charging document to have been forwarded to Mosby's office and for an investigation to have been conducted — both requirements under the law.

Charges for the other officers came after a similarly expedited process, the motion argues.

When reached for comment Friday, attorney Marc Zayon, who is representing Officer Edward Nero, said that "the motions speak for themselves. I look forward to the opportunity to litigate them in court."

Read the motion to dismiss the charges and to recuse Mosby here.

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Baltimore's police union on Friday also issued a statement asking the Department of Justice to also investigate Mayor Rawlings-Blake.

FOP #3 response to DOJ announcement 5/8/15

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Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Friday she hopes the new Department of Justice probe will result in a court-enforced agreement to reform the Baltimore Police Department.

"Our city is making progress in repairing the fractured relationship between police and community, but bolder reforms are needed and we will not shy away from taking on these challenges," Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "My goal is to achieve an enforceable court ordered agreement that ensures accountability as we work to restore trust between police and community."

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The Department of Justice opened a wide-ranging probe to determine whether the Baltimore Police Department routinely violates the constitutional rights of city residents, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Friday.

The new investigation comes in the wake of widespread protests demanding justice for Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody in April. After the protests became violent, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake asked Lynch to intervene.

"It was clear that recent events had given rise to a serious erosion of public trust," Lynch said at a news conference Friday. "In order to address this issue, I was asked by city officials and community leaders to augment our approach to the situation."

The DOJ's Community Oriented Policing Services — an office that provides "proactive, non-adversarial" assistance to help law enforcement agencies implement "good policies" — had been looking into the Baltimore Police Department since October 2014. Unlike the COPS process, the new probe may result in a legally binding, court-enforced agreement similar to the ones the DOJ reached with the police departments of Ferguson, Missouri, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The new probe will begin immediately and "focus on BPD's use of force, including deadly force, and its stops, searches, and arrests, as well as whether there is a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing," the DOJ said in a statement. It will not focus on particular events or individual police officers, but only consider systemic issues.

In her news conference, Lynch spoke of what she called "a fracture" in the people's trust in the police and the government, calling Gray's death a "flashpoint" that had crystallized "years of frustration and anger."

"We've had a number of situations highlighting the fracture in various communities in different parts of the country," Lynch said. "The issue goes beyond the interaction between the police and the community. We are talking about generations of mistrust and generations of communities that feel separated from government overall."

Lynch, however, pushed back from interpreting that "fracture" through a racial lens. Asked whether she anticipated the problems in Baltimore to be less tied to race than those in Ferguson, Lynch said that the frustration in the city cut across racial lines.

"The issues facing Baltimore certainly are expressed by some in racial tones," Lynch said. "But in terms of city leaders feeling frustrated at not being able to protect their city, there was a strong commonality in what I heard in Baltimore that crossed races, professions, and groups."

Lynch also took care to praise Baltimore's "brave" police force, saying that "policing is a challenging profession at this time."

At the end of the investigation, the DOJ will issue a report on its findings. If it finds that the Baltimore Police Department routinely violates the Constitution or federal law, it will issue a court-enforced agreement that will force the BPD to reform its practices.

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Watch the news conference here:

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