It looks like at least two of the Freddie Gray defendants have decided to go on the offensive.

According to reporting by the Baltimore Sun, Sergeant Alicia White and Officer William Porter have each filed suit against State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby for defamation and invasion of privacy.  Also named in the suit is Major Sam Cogen with the Baltimore Sheriff’s Office and the State of Maryland itself.

The Baltimore Sun report notes:

Mosby, who announced the charges one day after receiving the official police investigation into the incident, said that she had conducted her own independent investigation with the help of the sheriff’s office. Cogen signed and filed the initial charging documents in the case, outlining the state’s probable cause.

Attorneys for the officers have expressed skepticism about that investigation, saying evidence submitted to them through discovery provided little proof that any such investigation occurred.

Both White and Porter are charged with involuntary manslaughter (punishable by up to 10 years in prison), second-degree assault (10 years), reckless endangerment (5 years), and misconduct in office (indeterminate sentence).

White Porter

The suit was apparently filed on May 2.  The delay in it being made public may be a result of the attorneys for White and Porter requesting that the suit be sealed, to avoid any impression that they are seeking to violate the gag order put in place by Judge Barry Williams, who is overseeing the Freddie Gray trials.  This motion has been denied by another judge.  Attorneys for the officers explained that they could no longer delay filing this civil suit because of statute of limitations concerns.

The suit alleges that Mosby and Cogen made false statements against the officers in the course of filing charges against them, and that “[t]hese among other statements were made not for the purpose of prosecuting crimes that had allegedly been committed by White and Porter, but rather for purposes of quelling the riots in Baltimore.”

Civil attorneys interviewed by the Baltimore Sun were skeptical that the civil suit was likely to succeed. The sun quotes civil attorney A. Dwight Pettit as noting that prosecutors enjoy broad immunity from civil suit for conduct undertaken in the course of their official duties, “unless you can show some sort of malicious intent, which is a very steep burden.  … [The officers] would have to prove that they were frivolous and without substance and that she knew the charges could not stand, and none of that has developed.”

Despite the attorneys for the officers protestations to the contrary, one cannot help but wonder if the filing of the civil suit is, in fact, a strategy to get around the gag order imposed by Judge Barry Williams.  In the absent of the suit being sealed, which has already been denied, all filings in the civil suit will be public record.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


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