In the Media: Judge Drops Assault Charge Against Lt. Rice; BUILD Press Sagamore on Benefit Agreement

Jul 12, 2016

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Judge drops assault charge against Lt. Brian Rice in Freddie Gray case

"A judge dropped one of four charges Monday against Baltimore police Lt. Brian Rice in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, ruling prosecutors had not presented enough evidence to prove second-degree assault after three days of witness testimony.

"Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams made the decision at the trial's midpoint — after the prosecution rested its case, but before Rice's attorneys launched into his defense — by partially granting a defense motion for acquittal. He denied the motion as it pertained to involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct charges, though he said his decision on the reckless endangerment count was an 'extremely close call.'

"Such motions are seldom granted, in part because judges have to consider the charges in the 'light most favorable to the state,' as Williams noted. But in this case, he said, he was 'simply not satisfied' that prosecutors had proved assault based on their theory of how it occurred.

"That theory, according to an initial outline of the charge cited by Williams, is that the police transport van in which Rice placed Gray became an 'instrumentality' of Rice's when Gray suffered fatal spinal cord injuries in its rear compartment last year.

"Williams questioned how the van could be an 'instrumentality' of Rice's if he wasn't the one driving, and said there had been no evidence that Rice had been acting 'in concert' with others, as the theory also held.

"Legal observers in the courtroom said the decision to toss the charge came as a surprise.

"David Jaros, a University of Baltimore law professor, said he felt that 'the fact that the van driver was following [Rice's] orders on where to go with the van' was enough to allow the charge to move forward, even though he has 'significant doubts as to whether [the prosecution] can prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt' in the end.

"Douglas Colbert, a University of Maryland law professor, said that if one believes, in the light most favorable to the state, that Rice left Gray 'in this dangerous, precarious position, and he had no way to protect against an injury, a serious injury, and one occurred thereafter,' then it would 'seem to be enough to hold the charge' through the conclusion of the trial."

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From the Baltimore Sun: Officer Goodson, van driver acquitted in Freddie Gray’s death, to receive $87K in back pay

"Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., who was acquitted of second-degree murder and other charges in the death of Freddie Gray, is set to receive $87,000 in back pay.

"The city's Board of Estimates is set to authorize a payment of $87,705 to Goodson on Wednesday. Goodson and three other officers charged with felonies in connection with Gray's death were suspended without pay, under department policy. Having been acquitted, Goodson is now entitled to back pay under that policy.

"Goodson, 46, drove the transport van in which Gray sustained fatal injuries. He was suspended without pay from May 1, 2015, when he was charged by the state's attorney's office, until June 22 of this year, when Circuit Judge Barry Williams found Goodson not guilty on charges that included second-degree depraved-heart murder and three counts of manslaughter.

"Williams delivered a broad rebuke of the case against Goodson, saying prosecutors lacked evidence to support the charges.

"Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has said Goodson will remain suspended by the Police Department and now faces an administrative review.

"Gray, 25, died April 19, 2015, one week after his arrest. His death sparked citywide protests against police brutality, and his funeral was followed by looting and arson."

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From the Baltimore Sun: BUILD press Sagamore for benefits agreement, studies development cost

"A group of local religious leaders wants Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank to agree to an array of community benefits in exchange for any city subsidies given to his Port Covington redevelopment project.

"Clergy with Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, or BUILD, say they will attempt to hand-deliver a letter to Plank on Tuesday asking for a meeting to discuss local hiring requirements and other guarantees as part of the massive South Baltimore project.

"The request is one in a series of actions planned this month by the group. BUILD has hired an independent consultant to study how much the project will cost taxpayers; the group's plan is to present the findings of that review next week.

"'This is a citywide commitment that puts taxpayers on the hook for the next 40 years,' said the Rev. Andrew Foster Connors of Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church, BUILD's co-chairman.

"'Everyone in the city understands we have some deep, deep divides, and a proposal like this only comes along once in a generation,' he said. 'It's incumbent on all residents to ensure it includes opportunities to bridge the divides.'

"The proposed $5.5 billion redevelopment project on the peninsula south of Interstate 95 would include offices, homes, stores and light manufacturing. The centerpiece would be a new Under Armour campus.

"Plank's development firm, Sagamore, has said it wants $1.1 billion in public financing and grants to help build infrastructure including streets, parks and sewers. The City Council is scheduled this month to consider $535 million in tax-increment financing, in which the city would sell bonds that would be repaid with the revenue from future property taxes.

"Officials have estimated the project will generate an average of $40.3 million annually for the city after tax credits, debt service and other expenses.

"Sagamore said it will release Thursday the details of an agreement with a coalition of community leaders from neighborhoods surrounding Port Covington, including Cherry Hill, Westport and Curtis Bay.

"Sagamore officials say they have met with Gov. Larry Hogan, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, members of Congress and the City Council, and with civic, business, community and faith organizations to discuss the project."

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