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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

POLICE IN FREDDIE GRAY CASE LEAKING “ARSENAL OF MATERIAL” TO DEFENSE

BALTIMORE — At least one former or current member of the Baltimore Police Department has been "actively working" with defense attorneys for the six officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, according to prosecutors — leaking them an "arsenal of material" to use in a "campaign of public relations warfare."

Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow alleged in a recent motion that some of the information leaked to the defense has been true and some false. He warned defense attorneys that they are not entitled to "blindly believe and repeat every piece of information they may have been told by politically motivated sources."

The source of the information was not identified, and Schatzow did not specify what information is believed to have been leaked.

The motion follows others in which defense attorneys have alleged that the prosecution has not provided all of the evidence they are entitled to receive and said that they have conducted their own lengthy investigation of the case as a result — in part by interviewing state witnesses, some of whom are police officers.

On Tuesday, the Police Department directed all questions to Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, who did not respond to a request for comment.

None of the officers' attorneys responded to a request for comment.

Gray, 25, died in April after suffering a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody. His death was followed by protests against police brutality, and rioting, looting and arson erupted on the day of his funeral. Days after the unrest, Mosby announced charges against the six officers involved in Gray's arrest.

Officer Caesar R. Goodson Jr., the driver of the police van in which Gray was injured, is charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder. Sgt. Alicia D. White, Lt. Brian W. Rice and Officer William G. Porter are charged with manslaughter. Officers Edward M. Nero and Garrett E. Miller face lesser charges, including second-degree assault.

All of the officers have pleaded not guilty. They have yet to appear in court.

Their attorneys and the prosecutors have been litigating the case through a flurry of motions — each side alleging improprieties while also complaining that the other side's arguments have been written with flourishes aimed less at the court than at the news media.

In his latest motion, Schatzow asked the court to sanction defense attorneys for, among other things, using their subpoena power without the court knowing to obtain the text messages of a prosecutor working on the case and making "a knowingly false attack on an esteemed Circuit Court judge's integrity."

The defense has cited the text messages as evidence of "judge shopping" on the part of the prosecutor, who they said went to Judge Timothy J. Doory to obtain a warrant for the officers' cellphones after another judge had denied the request.

More recently, the defense has alleged that prosecutors have withheld information from the police investigation into Gray's death, and that Assistant State's Attorney Janice Bledsoe told police investigators not to pursue information that Gray had a history of participating in "crash-for-cash" schemes — injuring himself in law enforcement settings to collect settlements — so as not to "do the defense attorneys' jobs for them."

They have asked that Mosby's office be removed from the case.

In his motion, Schatzow characterized the defense allegations as obvious attempts, based on information obtained from questionable sources, to sway the jury pool — using the media "like Defense marionettes" in the process.
"This Court's judicial powers and processes have become Defense instruments in a publicly performed symphony of slander, innuendo, and victim-bashing," Schatzow wrote.
Schatzow asked that the court, through sanctions, restrict the defense attorneys' subpoena powers; require that they provide copies of all past subpoenas issued in the case and any information obtained through those subpoenas for a court review; clear the way for prosecutors to seek to quash or seek a protective order over any of that material; and warn the defense that "any future pleadings found to be made in bad faith may result in additional sanctions, including being held in contempt."

He wrote that the defense attorneys should have brought their concerns about missing evidence directly to prosecutors instead of writing about them in motions.

Schatzow acknowledged that after the concerns were raised about missing evidence — including some allegedly contained in the initial police investigation before it was handed over to the state's attorney's office — prosecutors went back to police to determine the facts, going through "the list of allegedly missing items."

"While most of the items do not exist, the investigators turned over to the State's Attorney's Office a few additional materials that they had never previously provided and which were then promptly given to the defense in a supplemental disclosure," he wrote.

A motions hearing is scheduled Sept. 2, though Judge Barry Williams could rule on motions in the case before then.

Jose F. Anderson, a law professor at the University of Baltimore and a former public defender in the city, said Williams might have much to say about the public squabbling between the two sides over evidence and discovery.
"Judges like parties to work these things out privately and among themselves as ladies and gentlemen," he said. "Most circuit judges will not be happy with games being played by either the prosecution or defense with discovery in such a high-profile case."
As for the defense attorneys getting information from a police source, Anderson said that would be "pretty rare" — though the defense attorneys have a right to conduct their own investigation in the case and try to talk to witnesses.

Still, he said, they could have taken concerns with what they found to the prosecution for further discussion without casting "a cloud over the prosecutors' motives" in court filings or giving the impression that they have "additional sources that are not equally sharing information with the prosecutors."


[Crossposted from Baltimore Sun]




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