BALTIMORE (CN) – Despite their assertion of immunity, a federal judge ruled Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and a sheriff’s major are still on the hook in the three malicious-prosecution lawsuits brought by officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray.
Gray's death at age 25 came a week after sustaining a critical spinal cord injury while his arresting officers transported him to the police station. Riots and widespread protests broke out following Gray's April 27, 2015, funeral. Rioting, looting and arson was quickly quelled after the governor called in the National Guard.
U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis issued a 65-page ruling Friday denying several motions to dismiss cases against Mosby and Baltimore City Sheriff Maj. Samuel Cogen, who signed the statement of charges against indicted officers.
Mosby claimed she was protected from the lawsuit by prosecutorial immunity. Both Mosby and Cogen asserted public official immunity, statutory immunity, and qualified immunity.
Garbis dismissed charges of false arrest, false imprisonment, abuse of process and conspiracy, but allowed claims of malicious prosecution, defamation and invasion of privacy to move forward against Mosby and Cogen.
“Plaintiffs’ malicious prosecution claims relate to [Mosby’s] actions when functioning as an investigator and not as a prosecutor,” Garbis wrote.
Both Mosby’s office and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s office, which is representing Mosby, declined to comment on Friday’s ruling.
Prosecutors indicted six officers total after Gray's death inspired riots in Baltimore. The charges alleged the arresting officers had no grounds to detain Gray and failed to secure him with a seatbelt in the back of the police transport van. Prosecutors also alleged that the officers failed to get Gray medical attention after the injury occurred.
Officer William Porter’s case ended in a mistrial after the jury deadlocked. Officer Edward Nero was acquitted of misdemeanor charges by Judge Barry Williams following a bench trial.
Lt. Brian Rice was also acquitted last year. Officer Garrett Miller’s charges were dropped in July, ending the case without a single conviction. Sgt. Alicia White was awaiting trial when the prosecution abandoned its efforts.
Nero and Miller sued Mosby and Cogen in April of last year. Rice sued a month later and White and Porter filed a third complaint in July.
Caesar Goodson, another police officer cleared of charges in the Freddie Gray case, has not filed suit against Mosby or Cogen.
In his Jan. 6 ruling, Judge Garbis wrote that he must view the allegations in the light most favorable to the officers. He said their claims provided enough support for the lawsuit to move to the next stage.
“Viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, they present allegations that present a plausible claim that the defendants made false statements or omissions either knowingly or with reckless disregard of their truth or falsity,” the judge wrote.
Garbis said he was “not definitively deciding” that Mosby and Cogen would not be protected by immunity.
“Rather the court is determining that the existence of this affirmative defense is not clear on the face of the complaint and a firm conclusion on the reasonableness of the probable cause determination requires greater factual development,” he wrote. “Plaintiffs have alleged facts adequate to present a plausible Fourth Amendment claim.”
According to the Baltimore Sun, attorney David Ellin, who represents Rice, said that given Judge Garbis’ decision and absent an appeal by the state, the ruling means the officers’ attorneys will begin the discovery stage, which includes deposing Mosby and others involved in the investigation.
Porter and White are represented by attorney Michael Glass. Nero and Miller are represented by Joseph Mallon Jr. Neither attorney responded Tuesday to a request for comment.
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