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In the Media: Three Acquittals Now in Freddie Gray Case; 65 Arrested in Protest During Artscape


A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Freddie Gray case: After three acquittals prosecutors face tough challenge in remaining trials, experts say

"With three acquittals and a hung jury in the trials of Baltimore police officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, prosecutors face steep hurdles to winning convictions in the three remaining cases, legal experts said.

"Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams, who cleared Lt. Brian Rice of all charges Monday, sent a strong message that the state's attorney's office lacks the evidence to prove the officers' conduct was criminal, observers said.

"'The state is not simply 0 for 4,' said defense attorney Warren Brown, who is not involved in the cases but has observed the proceedings. 'They're 0 for 24 when you add up all the charges that the judge or jury considered through the course of four trials.'

"Rice, 42, was found not guilty of involuntary manslaughter, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. Williams had dropped a charge of second-degree assault at the trial's midpoint.

"'The judge has said over and over and over again [that the evidence] falls short of convincing him beyond a reasonable doubt' that the officers are criminally culpable, Brown said.

"That doesn't necessarily mean prosecutors should drop the remaining cases, one expert said.

"University of Maryland law professor Douglas Colbert said the trials are sending a message to police. Prosecutors should keep going after adapting their strategy based on Williams' latest ruling, he said.

"'It would be irresponsible not to continue prosecution as long as our elected official believes that there's evidence to satisfy the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt,' Colbert said, referring to Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby. 'An elected official cannot fall to the public pressure being placed by the police union and others.'"

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From the Baltimore Sun: Prosecutors decline to prosecute juveniles in protest near Artscape

"The Baltimore state's attorney's office has declined to prosecute 10 youths who were arrested Saturday during a protest against police brutality that briefly blocked traffic on Interstate 83, spokeswoman Rochelle Ritchie said Monday.

"The 55 adults who were also arrested during the protest near Artscape were charged with failure to obey and illegally walking on a highway. They were given citations and released, and did not have to appear before a court commissioner or post bail, Baltimore police spokesman T.J. Smith said.

"A freelance photographer contracted by the Baltimore City Paper and a documentary filmmaker were among those arrested. Smith said they were arrested because they were on the highway.

"'This is against the law,' Smith said. 'No one in the media should be involved in blocking roadways.'

"The City Paper is owned by the Baltimore Sun Media Group. A spokeswoman expressed concern over the arrest of a photographer as she was covering a news event.

"'Though the contracted photographer had press credentials, she was arrested along with the protesters,' spokeswoman Renee Mutchnik said. 'We are disappointed and concerned that police would arrest a journalist while doing their job in providing information to the community.'

"The protest, called Afromation on social media, started at Guilford Avenue and Chase Street. Demonstrators walked to Artscape, the city's annual arts festival, then used an on-ramp that was closed to traffic because of Artscape to enter the Jones Falls Expressway.

"The protesters blocked the highway briefly before returning to the on-ramp. Then police started making arrests.

"Protesters said they cleared the highway when police told them an ambulance needed to get through, but no ambulance appeared.

"Smith said he had no information about the ambulance or whether it was a tactic intended to disperse the demonstrators.

"'No order was given by any supervision to mention anything about an ambulance coming,' Smith said.

"The Baltimore Action Legal Team, a group that sent four legal observers to the protest, released a statement saying three of the four members who had not participated in the protest were nonetheless arrested.

"'Any person who favors freedom should be outraged by these arrests and the treatment protesters received,' said Jenny Egan of the Baltimore Action Legal Team."

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From the Baltimore Sun: Advocates pressure Port Covington Developers on affordable housing, TIF size

"Advocates are calling for the developers of the massive Port Covington project to do more for low-income communities in exchange for receiving the largest-ever special tax deal from Baltimore's government.

"Days after the developers announced a multimillion-dollar community benefits agreement with six nearby neighborhoods, two groups stepped up their pressure Monday on Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank's Sagamore Development Co., which is planning a large-scale waterfront community in South Baltimore.

"During the City Council's evening meeting, Councilman Carl Stokes introduced a bill backed by advocates for the homeless that would require at least 20 percent of Port Covington's housing units to be set aside for low-income residents — double what's planned.

"At the same time, the community group Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, or BUILD, released a skeptical analysis of the Port Covington project's finances, saying the proposal being considered by council members understates the project's cost to the city. The group called on the City Council to halt plans to award the developer $660 million in bonds.

"'We're calling on the City Council to not move this forward until they carry out their own independent analysis,' said the Rev. Andrew Foster Connors, co-chair of BUILD. 'Baltimore taxpayers will be on the hook for 41 years for the largest TIF subsidy in Maryland history. This is a generational moment.

"'You're going to have taxpayers from all other neighborhoods subsidizing services for Port Covington, and missing out on an opportunity to bridge our deep divides.'

"Sagamore President Marc Weller called some of the group's conclusions flawed, while pointing out that BUILD's analysis agreed with the developer's expectation that more than 25,000 new, permanent jobs would be created — "perhaps the most important benefit" of the project, he said.

"Sagamore has proposed a mixed-use waterfront development that would include a new headquarters for Under Armour, restaurants, shops, housing and a manufacturing plant, among other features.

"The company has asked the city to float $660 million in bonds to build infrastructure for the project. Under a deal called tax-increment financing, the developer would have to pay back the bonds through future taxes.

"Proponents see TIF deals as a creative way to finance infrastructure in a city with high property taxes. Critics contend that TIFs divert money for decades from the city's general fund, where it could be used to pay for needs such as firefighters and schools.

"Stokes' bill would require the creation of thousands of affordable housing units in the $5.5 billion Port Covington development. The "Housing Our Neighbors Act" would require that at least 20 percent of new housing units — about 1,500 — be available at prices affordable to people with incomes at 30 percent of Baltimore's median. That would enable, for instance, families of four with an annual income of $26,880 to live in Port Covington.

"The legislation calls for much more affordable housing than the developers currently envision.

"In a deal with Baltimore's government, Sagamore agreed to a goal of making 10 percent of the 7,500 proposed, mostly rental residences "affordable" for families with incomes that are less than 80 percent of the median household income in the Baltimore area. That threshold translates to about $65,700 for a family of four, according to federal estimates.

"Stokes argues that the city can do better."

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