Judge mulls judgment for GTTF officers in false arrest lawsuit

Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer//November 30, 2018

Judge mulls judgment for GTTF officers in false arrest lawsuit

By Heather Cobun

//Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

//November 30, 2018

Wanda Keyes Heard, chief judge for the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court of Maryland. (File Photo/Maximilian Franz)
Wanda Keyes Heard, chief judge for the Eighth Judicial Circuit Court of Maryland. (File Photo/Maximilian Franz)

A Baltimore judge will determine whether to allow a lawsuit by a man claiming two former Gun Trace Task Force officers planted a gun and arrested him to move forward after a hearing Friday that may have convinced her to rule in the ex-officers’ favor.

Ryan Brown’s lawsuit against Marcus Taylor and Evodio Hendrix is scheduled for trial Dec. 11, which would make it the first in a spate of lawsuits in state and federal court against members of the corrupt unit convicted of federal racketeering charges to go to trial.

But Baltimore City Circuit Judge Wanda Keyes Heard told the parties at a hearing on the officers’ summary judgment motions that because the charges against Brown were dropped, she was considering granting the motions. The charges were dropped less than a month after Hendrix and Taylor were indicted in February 2017.

Heard said she had been leaning toward ruling for the plaintiff because she thought Brown pleaded guilty to a handgun charge, but Brown’s attorneys informed her that was not the case. Heard will issue a written opinion by Thursday.

Anton Iamele, an attorney for Brown, said regardless of the outcome of the criminal proceedings, Brown claims he was falsely arrested and never had the gun while Taylor and Hendrix say they recovered the gun near Brown on a porch.

Iamele, of Iamele & Iamele LLP, said whether the gun was planted is a factual issue that should go to a jury.

Domenic Iamele, also representing Brown, said Taylor and Hendrix “are not adverse to planting evidence,” citing the facts that came out in trials and plea agreements about the workings of the Gun Trace Task Force.

Heard asked what evidence showed the officers planted the gun in Brown’s case. Domenic Iamele said because of these officers’ history, reporting finding a gun the discovery is suspect. Heard noted that other instances of planting a weapon were not proof in this case.

Taylor’s attorney, Neil E. Duke of Baker Donelson in Baltimore, told Heard the body camera footage of the incident shows the officers recovering the gun on the porch and taking Brown into custody without incident.

Pending motions

The defendants’ summary judgment motions were the only ones before Heard for consideration Friday, but several others were filed in recent weeks seeking to protect Taylor and Hendrix from undue prejudice based on the notoriety of the GTTF.

In a motion filed Nov. 20, Hendrix asked the court to preemptively exclude any reference to his assignment to the task force because it is irrelevant to Brown’s case.

“The only possible reason Plaintiff would seek to offer evidence that Mr. Hendrix was a GTTF member is to plant in the jury’s mind that Mr. Hendrix is liable simply because he was part of this unit,” the motion contends.

Taylor made a similar argument in his motion.

“The speediest and surest means by which to achieve a mistrial in this matter is for Plaintiff to embark on the path he has forecasted (sic) throughout his lawsuit,” the motion states. “Namely, Plaintiff appears to be inclined to avoid focusing on the facts at hand, by making his lawsuit a broad, sweeping indictment of the former BPD police officers who were assigned to the Gun Trace Task Force (“GTTF”) Unit.”

Hendrix also filed a motion to remove the trial from Baltimore on Nov. 21, arguing he cannot receive a fair and impartial trial in Baltimore where there has been “massive and widespread public outrage against Mr. Hendrix and the GTTF.”

Brown has not responded to the latest motions.

The case is Ryan Brown v. Marcus Taylor et al., 24C17006621.

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