Accusations Swirl in Path to Freddie Gray Murder Trial

     BALTIMORE (CN) — The sheriff’s officer who helped bring charges against police over the death of Freddie Gray urged a federal judge to dismiss one officer’s civil claims against him.
     Samuel Cogen, a major with the Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office, filed the motion Tuesday, saying he is entitled to immunity.
     Along with State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Cogen is named as a defendant to the federal lawsuit filed a month ago by Lt. Brian Scott Rice but kept under seal until Monday.
     Rice was among six Baltimore police officers indicted after Gray’s death on April 19, 2015, ignited riots across the city.
     The charges allege that police lacked probable cause to arrest Gray, who died from a critical spinal cord injury he sustained while being transported in a van to central booking.
     But Rice’s lawsuit says it is Cogen and Mosby who lacked probable cause to arrest him.
     Noting that he was on bicycle patrol at the time of Gray’s April 12 arrest, Rice says he was the one who made eye contact with Gray that led the 25-year-old to begin running.
     Rice was not present when fellow officers apprehended Gray, according to the complaint, but he says Gray was found in possession of an spring-assisted knife.
     Though Rice insists such knives are illegal, Mosby called Gray’s knife lawful at the May 1 press conference in which she announced the charges against the six officers.
     Rice says this statement was false, and that Mosby “spoke in a divisive and inciting manner.”
     Cogen might have received “erroneous legal advice” from Mosby about whether there was probable cause to arrest and charge Rice, but the officer says Cogen should have known there was no probable cause.
     The major’s motion to dismiss insists that sufficient probable cause supported the application for statement of charges he submitted.
     “Even if a constitutional violation did occur, Major Cogen would still be entitled to qualified immunity because there is no evidence that he was entirely unreasonable in believing that he had probable cause to bring charges against plaintiff,” the motion continues.
     In addition to his immunity, Cogen says the case against him should be dismissed since Rice “failed to properly serve him.”
     In unsealing Rice’s complaint Monday, U.S. District Judge James Bredar noted that the Baltimore Sun had sought access to the case files.
     The two-page ruling also references Circuit Judge Althea Handy’s decision
     last week to unseal a similar case by two of Rice’s co-defendants, Sgt. Alicia White and officer William Porter.
     “To whatever extent plaintiff might have presented a colorable argument in favor of sealing, that argument is rendered essentially nugatory by public access to parallel allegations in state court,” Bredar wrote.
     To date, Mosby has brought two of the six indicted officers to trial.
     While a hung jury in the first effort requires a retrial for Porter, officer Edward Nero faced a bench trial last month was acquitted. Nero had been charged with assault and other charges, all misdemeanors.
     Like Rice, Porter and White are each charged with manslaughter. Rice is scheduled to go to trial on July 5, Porter on Sept. 6, and White on Oct. 13.
     Officer Caesar Goodson faces the most severe charge of the six: depraved-heart murder. He drove the van in which Gray sustained the spinal injury.
     Goodson’s trial, another bench proceeding, is slated to begin Thursday.
     Officer Garrett Miller, who faces trial on July 27, is charged with assault.
     Spokesmen for both Mosby and the Sheriff’s Office declined to provide a comment.
     Rice is seeking at least $2.7 million in damages.
     His attorney David Ellin cited a gag order related to the cases.

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