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BPD lawyer: Woman blocked traffic to film arrest

Baltimore police officers had probable cause to arrest a woman who alleged police assaulted her in after she filmed officers beating and arresting someone else, a lawyer for the officers wrote in a federal court filing.

The probable cause entitles the officers to qualified immunity, Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr. wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis on Sept. 15 seeking leave to file a motion for summary judgment.

Makia Smith was stopped in traffic on Harford Road with her 2-year-old daughter in the back seat in March 2012 when she used the camera on her phone to film police beating a young man, according to her complaint.

An officer saw her filming, ran to her car and destroyed her phone, she alleges. The officer then pulled her out of the car and he and several others began beating up Smith, according to the complaint, filed in May 2013.

Smith was charged with second-degree assault and resisting arrest, among other charges, all of which were ultimately dropped.

According to Zollicoffer, however, Smith “abruptly stopped in the middle of Harford Road, blocked the flow of traffic and exited her vehicle while it remained in the road.” Smith then refused orders from police to move her car to allow traffic to pass and produce her driver’s license, according to Zollicoffer.

“The inescapable conclusion is that [police] had probable cause to arrest Ms. Smith,” wrote Zollicoffer, a partner with Whiteford Taylor Preston LLP in Baltimore.

Garbis, in March, denied the officers’ motion to dismiss Smith’s lawsuit, which seeks $500,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages. She also seeks a declaratory judgment that her filming of the officers was protected by the First Amendment.

Smith is represented by lawyers from Astrachan Gunst Thomas P.C. in Baltimore and Lawrence S. Greenberg, of Greenberg Law Offices, also in Baltimore.

The case is Smith v. Baltimore Police Department, et al., 1:13-cv-01352-MJG.