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Baltimore prosecutor’s office seeks dismissal from two GTTF suits

The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office is asking to be dismissed from two federal lawsuits against former Gun Trace Task Force members that name the office as a co-defendant.

The lawsuits, filed in U.S. District Court, allege prosecutors knew or should have known the officers were engaged in unconstitutional conduct but failed to curb it. They claim prosecutors committed civil rights violations by knowingly permitting the officers to operate a criminal enterprise and playing a role in furthering the conduct by not making lawful disclosures.

But in motions to dismiss filed Thursday, the office claims sovereign and common law immunities both bar the suits.

The motions cite the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent opinion in the Freddie Gray officers’ suit against State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, which “declined to eliminate prosecutorial immunity in police misconduct cases.”

Blanton Roberts filed suit in June alleging members of the corrupt unit approached him in October 2015, unlawfully searched him and planted evidence. Roberts was incarcerated pending trial and pleaded guilty in July 2016 to illegal possession of a firearm.

Prosecutors moved to withdraw Roberts’ guilty plea and dropped the charges last year after the officers were indicted on federal racketeering charges.

Kenneth Bumgardner filed suit in May and claimed the officers in February 2016 reversed their unmarked vehicle into his, causing him to flee on foot, at which point he was his in the head with a blunt object. The officers did not call for medical assistance for two hours and Bumgardner eventually required surgery for a fractured mandible.

Bumgardner was cited for driving infractions and pleaded guilty to reckless driving in April 2016.

Roberts and Bumgardner’s complaints both allege the state’s attorney’s office and the Baltimore Police Department “encouraged, tolerated, ratified, and has been deliberately indifferent” to the practice of excessive force and improper exercise of police powers while failing to monitor officers and take remedial or disciplinary action.

The complaints cite previous incidents in which misconduct by the GTTF officers was made known to prosecutors and the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into patterns and practices of the Baltimore Police Department which found a history of unconstitutional conduct.

The state’s attorney’s office’s motions to dismiss contends the complaint does not state a plausible claim for relief because it “does not contain a statement of facts that support his conclusory assertions as to the SAO.”

The plaintiffs in both cases are represented by Joshua Insley and Hannah Ernstberger of Saller & Bishop in Baltimore. The State’s Attorney’s Office is represented by the Maryland Office of the Attorney General.

The cases are Blanton Roberts v. Officer Marcus Taylor et al., 1:18-cv-01940, and Kenneth Bumgardner v. Officer Marcus Taylor et al., 1:18-cv-01438.

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