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Family of GTTF victim urges court to order city to pay judgment

A plaintiff seeking an order requiring the city to pay a $32,000 judgment against three former Gun Trace Task Force officers urged the court in a motion filed Wednesday to focus on the facts of the case — a single illegal arrest — and not on the broader criminal conduct of the officers.

William James filed suit last year alleging the officers stopped his car, pulled him out, planted a gun on him and arrested him. The GTTF officers consented to a judgment in April and James’ family is now asking the court to require the city, which generally indemnifies police officers in lawsuits, to pay the $32,000.

James died during the litigation and his estate is now suing for payment. The parties agreed to file cross-motions for summary judgment on the issue and Baltimore City Solicitor Andre M. Davis indicated his office wants to fast-track the eventual decision to the Court of Appeals for a ruling.

Baltimore, which filed its motion July 2, argues it is not required by law or agreement with the police union to pay judgments against corrupt police officers because they were engaged in a criminal conspiracy and were not acting within the scope of their employment as police officers.

But in a cross-motion filed Wednesday, the plaintiff argued that the city was attempting to obtain a “sweeping ruling precluding recovery by any plaintiff whose damages arise out of an encounter with any member of the GTTF, simply by virtue of the indictments and subsequent convictions.”

James’ estate asked the court to analyze the facts of James’ case, which “is not about any vast criminal enterprise or prolonged conspiracy” but rather concerns “a false arrest by officers driving BPD owned vehicles, carrying BPD issued weapons, and using law enforcement tools and procedures to arrest, book, and charge a man with crimes he did not commit.”

The GTTF officers did not steal money or drugs from James or get information from him that they used later to commit other offenses, according to the motion. There is “no tangible link” between the arrest and the officers’ racketeering, drug distribution, bribery and overtime fraud crimes, the motion concludes.

James’ estate also argues public policy considerations are “strongly in favor of indemnification by the city” because “the consequences to the citizens of Baltimore would be far more dangerous should this enforcement action be denied.”

The city argued in its motion that it would “flirt with bankruptcy” if it had to pay for the type of conduct James sued over, but the plaintiff’s motion contends “a lack of obligation to indemnify will leave innocent citizens without any recourse for the far-reaching damages caused by the City’s own employees.”

Both parties have requested a hearing on their motions.

The case is Estate of William James v. Mayor And City Council Of Baltimore, 24C19002784.


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