Freddie Gray Settlement Awaits Board Approval

     BALTIMORE (CN) – The city of Baltimore has proposed a $6.4 million settlement to the family of Freddie Gray Jr., a 25-year-old who sustained fatal injuries in police custody.
     The city made the settlement agreement and release public on Tuesday. The city’s board of estimates, which handles Baltimore’s fiscal policy, will vote on the settlement at its meeting on Wednesday morning.
     Gray’s death spurred riots in Baltimore, where more than 400 businesses were either damaged or set on fire, 150 vehicles were burned, 20 police officers were injured, and 285 people were arrested.
     Gray died April 19, a week after sustaining a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody. A week of mostly peaceful demonstrations turned violent the day of Gray’s funeral. The violence was isolated to a single day, though, after Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake instituted a 10 p.m. curfew and Gov. Larry Hogan called up the National Guard to help keep peace.
     The “agreement is to fully and finally resolve all civil differences…and to allow the settling parties to avoid the time, expense and uncertainties of protracted litigation,” but “shall not be construed in any way as an admission of liability or guilt on the part of the [mayor and city council of Baltimore or the Baltimore Police Department] or the officers who were involved in the detention, arrest or transport of Freddie Gray,” the document states.
     The agreement makes clear that the settlement and payments “is not to be construed as evidence of an obligation on behalf of the city to indemnify any person who may be covered under this agreement for claims of intentional conduct,” it states.
     According to the agreement, the settlement is intended to “spare the broader Baltimore community from the ongoing turmoil that would inevitably result from protracted and much scrutinized civil litigation…and all the broader community to heal from the events of, and immediately following,” Gray’s death.
     Gloria Darden, Gray’s mother, will collect a total of $5.36 million, pending the board’s approval. Freddie Gray Sr. would be entitled to $640,000 and the remaining $400,000 would be paid to the Estate of Freddie Gray Jr. if the settlement is approved.
     The payments would be made to settling parties over a two-year period. If the settlement gets the green light this week, the first payments will be made 15 days after the board’s approval. The second round of payments would be made on Nov. 15 and the final payments would be made on July 15, 2016 in fiscal year 2017.
     The proposed settlement comes just a day before a court will hear its second day of motion hearings in the criminal trial of six officers charged in Gray’s death. Judge Barry Glenn Williams, an associate judge with the Baltimore City Circuit Court, will hear arguments that the officers cannot get a fair trial in Baltimore because of the intense publicity surrounding the case.
     Last week, Williams granted defense attorneys’ motion to have the officers tried separately, but denied both a motion to dismiss the charges against the officers and another motion to have state attorney Marilyn Mosby removed from the case.
     The six officers face varying charges. Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., the driver of the police van in which Mr. Gray was injured, is charged with second-degree, depraved-heart murder, while Sgt. Alicia White, Lt. Brian Rice and officer William Porter are charged with manslaughter. Officers Edward Nero and Garrett Miller face lesser charges, including second-degree assault.
     The settlement is unusually high for Baltimore police misconduct settlements and outpaces all of the 102 cases settled with the city in 2011, which the Baltimore Sun reported to be $5.7 million.

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