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In the Media: Trial of Officer Rice in Gray Case Begins; Bill to Ban Housing Voucher Discrimination

The six Baltimore Police officers charged in Freddie Gray's homicide.
Baltimore City Police Department

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Trial of Officer Rice in Freddie Gray case set to begin Tuesday

"Baltimore prosecutors appear prepared to forge ahead with the next trial of an officer charged in the death of Freddie Gray, on the heels of two acquittals delivered by the judge overseeing the case.

"The trial of Lt. Brian Rice is scheduled to begin Tuesday with preliminary motions, including defense requests to dismiss the charges. Rice has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. He is free on $350,000 bail.

"Rice, 42, is the highest-ranking of the six officers charged in the case. The most serious charges against him stem from failing to secure Gray with a seat belt when he helped load the shackled 25-year-old into an arrest van.

"Other charges relate to his role in Gray's initial arrest. Rice was on bike patrol at the Gilmor Homes complex when Gray fled police, and Rice called out for other officers to pursue him.

"Rice is expected to opt for a bench trial, with Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams deciding his fate. In the two previous cases, Williams cleared officers who faced similar or more serious accusations.

"In clearing van driver Officer Caesar GoodsonJr. of all charges last month, Williams said: 'Even assuming the failure to seat belt caused the death of Mr. Gray, and this Court has already determined there is insufficient evidence concerning that issue, the State is required to show that the defendant was aware of the risk this would — not could — cause, and acted with extreme disregard for the life endangering consequences. Those facts have not been presented to this Court.'

"Rice participated in loading Gray into the arrest van at its second stop, lifting Gray into the vehicle with the assistance of Officer Edward Nero, who was acquitted of charges at his trial. Goodson had been accused of failing to secure Gray at five different stops.

"As for the initial arrest, Rice called out for officers to pursue Gray through Gilmor Homes, but it was Nero and Officer Garrett Miller who answered the request and detained and searched Gray. Nero was acquitted of charges related to the arrest after arguing he had a limited role. Miller is scheduled to be tried July 27."

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From the Baltimore Sun: Baltimore County weighs bill to ban housing voucher discrimination

"Baltimore County Council members face a challenging decision: whether to outlaw housing discrimination based on how a tenant pays his rent.

"County Executive Kevin Kamenetz plans to introduce a bill Tuesday that would prohibit such discrimination. Though the measure encompasses all types of income, it's targeted at eliminating discrimination against people with government housing vouchers, commonly known as Section 8 vouchers.

"Kamenetz's bill has the backing of a coalition of groups that advocate for the homeless and the poor. But it faces opposition from property managers and landlords, as well as from some residents who worry it will lead to more low-income housing in the county.

"'There's a lot of fear-mongering, and it's been going on for a long, long time,' Kamenetz said.

"Kamenetz is required to introduce the bill as part of a housing discrimination settlement with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development that was reached this year. The county also must spend $30 million over the next decade to encourage developers to build 1,000 homes for low-income families and move 2,000 families with housing vouchers to areas with few such families now.

"If Kamenetz's housing voucher discrimination bill does not pass the County Council, the HUD settlement requires it to be reintroduced in future years.

"The Kamenetz administration and supporters of the legislation say it would be one step toward breaking up heavy concentrations of poverty and housing vouchers in parts of the county.

"Right now, they say, people who are approved for vouchers can have a difficult time finding a landlord who will rent to them in their preferred neighborhoods.

"'That is a major problem in the county today. There are many landlords who will deny all vouchers,' said Matt Hill, an attorney with the Public Justice Center.

"Other landlords may accept vouchers in some of their rental complexes but not in others. 'It steers people with vouchers into particular areas of the county that often already have a concentration of low-income people,' Hill said.

"Housing advocates say that when poverty is concentrated, residents have fewer job opportunities, lower-quality schools and a poor quality of life. When poor people move to more affluent neighborhoods, they have a better shot at climbing the economic ladder, these advocates say."

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From the Baltimore Sun: Port Covington faces long odds an local competition as it vies for federal funds

"The U.S. Department of Transportation soon will decide the fate of a $76.1 million request for federal funding in Port Covington, where the state wants to widen Interstate 95 ramps and make other changes in anticipation of the new Under Armour campus planned in the area.

"The proposal faces long odds, vying with more than 200 applicants seeking 13 times the amount of money available.

"Among its rivals is another Maryland request, for $155 million to remake the century-old Howard Street rail tunnel, a freight bottleneck has hobbled the port of Baltimore for years.

"Local politicians downplayed any competition between the proposals, which pit one of the state's traditional economic engines against a project backed by the founder of the fast-growing sports apparel company. But as Port Covington seeks millions more in federal and state funding over the next two decades, this contest for federal transportation funds offers a preview of potential clashes between local priorities that lie ahead.

"'I don't want to play one against the other … but if we're talking about having to take money from the same pot, that will enter into the conversation at some point,' City Councilman Carl Stokes said. 'We can't talk about Port Covington without having the broader conversation of competing interests in the city.'

"Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank is pushing for the redevelopment of Port Covington, an under-utilized industrial area in Baltimore south of Interstate-95 where his private real estate firm, Sagamore Development Co. has amassed about 160 acres and is planning a massive mixed-use development next to a new Under Armour headquarters.

"The $76.1 million Port Covington proposal would help the state and the city add lanes to nearby I-95 ramps to address an expected traffic boom; reconstruct a CSX railroad bridge and relocate a rail line to ease the creation of a new street grid in the area.

"The $155 million Howard Street proposal would help CSX and the state enlarge a 1.7-mile railroad tunnel under downtown Baltimore to allow passage of trains carrying shipping containers stacked two-high, a feature considered critical to efficient freight movement to and from the port.

"Matthew A. Clark, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, said the state is hopeful for both projects. He declined to say whether the Howard Street tunnel or Port Covington is a higher priority, characterizing the two proposals as a 'single application' for Baltimore City."

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