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Board of Estimates OKs two police-related settlements

The Baltimore Board of Estimates last week approved a $155,000 settlement with a Baltimore couple who had sued the city police department after police searched the husband in the street for drugs.

Wesley Williams and Shaney Pendelton, who have two children together, filed the lawsuit against three Baltimore police officers on Feb. 28, 2011 in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Williams and Pendelton originally sought $9 million in compensatory damages and $90 million in punitive damages on claims that included state and federal constitutional violations, battery, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

The Board of Estimates approved the $155,000 settlement in its regular meeting on Wednesday. In a memo to the board, Deputy City Solicitor David E. Ralph recommended the settlement due to “conflicting factual accounts” and uncertainty of whether there was probable cause to search the car or make an arrest.

It was the second settlement approved by the board in April and the third so far in 2012. The only dissenting vote came again from City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who has said in the past that he feels the city is spending too much on police misconduct claims.

According to court records, the search occurred when Baltimore Police Officers Fabien Laronde, Michael Lash and Carnest McDuffie were operating in plainclothes on May 13, 2008. According to the police, officers saw Williams get into and then get back out of a car with a plastic baggie in his hand. The officers claimed Williams, when approached, appeared to be hiding something and refused to show his hands. The officers drew their weapons and conducted a search that included looking in Williams’ shorts for contraband or weapons. A plastic baggie was recovered from the car.

According to Williams and Pendelton’s lawsuit, Pendelton was driving down from Havre de Grace to drop their two children off with him around 9 p.m. Their complaint says the undercover officers approached Williams brandishing weapons without identifying themselves as police officers. Williams alleged that he thought he was being robbed and Pendelton, thinking the same, called 911 to report the robbery.

The complaint says Williams was basically strip searched in the street while Pendelton was tackled after refusing to stop dialing 911 to report the officers. Both were arrested but all charges against them were dropped later.

The city’s spending panel on Wednesday also voted to approve the settlement of a separate, unrelated claim involving a motorcyclist who was hit by a police cruiser. Corey Norris received $115,000 as a result of injuries sustained on Aug. 31, 2011.

Baltimore Police Officer Keith Tate, of the northeastern district, was pursuing a drug suspect through an alley at 11:13 a.m. He turned on to Beaufort Avenue without yielding to oncoming traffic and hit Norris, who had $30,000 in medical expenses and suffered permanent impairments as a result of the collision.

WILLIAMS ET AL. V. LARONDE ET AL.

Court:

U.S. District Court in Baltimore

Case No.:

1:11-cv-00524-BEL

Judge:

Benson Everett Legg

Outcome:

Settlement, $155,000

Dates:

Event: May 13, 2008

Suit filed: Feb. 28, 2011

Settlement: April 18, 2012

Plaintiffs’ Attorney:

Timothy Monroe Dixon of Baltimore and Emanuel M Levin, of Baltimore.

Defendants’ Attorneys:

Christopher C Jeffries and Dale B Garbutt with Whiteford Taylor and Preston LLP in Baltimore.

Counts:

Violations of the Maryland and U.S. constitutions; battery; false imprisonment; false arrest; malicious prosecution; intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy.