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Attorneys file 3 more GTTF lawsuits as deadline looms

A Baltimore firm has filed three more lawsuits against former members of the Baltimore Police Department’s corrupt, now-disbanded Gun Trace Task Force as the likely deadline to file approaches.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office unsealed the indictment against seven of the GTTF defendants on March 1, 2017. Most civil causes of action must be filed within three years of when the plaintiff knew or, through reasonable investigation, could have discovered that he or she had a claim.

Attorneys Joshua L. Insley and Hannah M. Ernstberger said Tuesday they believe plaintiffs with claims against the GTTF did not have notice of their claims until the indictment was unsealed, causing the three-year countdown for the statute of limitations to begin.

Insley called March 1 “the date the conspiracy was disclosed to the people of Baltimore,” though the involvement of other officers and certain details did not come to light until later.

Insley and Ernstberger, of Saller, Lord, Ernstberger & Insley in Baltimore, have filed six lawsuits against the police and GTTF members, including the three new cases filed Monday. Ernstberger said they planned to file two more lawsuits before March 1.

Baltimore City Solicitor Andre M. Davis has said that the city received around 70 notices of potential claims and that at least 26 state and federal lawsuits have been filed against GTTF officers.

Attorneys for Baltimore have argued in other cases that GTTF victims knew they had a claim on the date of their arrest — often years before allegations of misconduct by the officers became public. So far judges have rejected that argument.

“They are 100% wrong,” Insley said of the city attorneys’ position.

The three lawsuits filed Monday are unrelated incidents and involve the indicted officers and others.

Plaintiff Eric Rich was arrested by officers Daniel Hersl and Calvin Moss on Oct. 2, 2017, according to Rich’s lawsuit. He was accused of possessing an unregistered handgun and was indicted later that month.

Rich alleges that Hersl had threatened the week before the arrest to plant a gun on him, prompting Rich to file a complaint with the department, according to the complaint.

Rich was federally indicted in March 2008 but the charges were dismissed after federal prosecutors reviewed the Baltimore police internal affairs file for Hersl, according to the lawsuit.

Gary Brown was pulled over by police Sergeant Michael Sylvester on June 8, 2009, while officers Jemell Rayam and Jason Giordano were patrolling in plainclothes nearby, according to Brown’s lawsuit. Brown was pulled out of the car and handcuffed while the car was searched and the officers seized $11,000 in cash, according to Brown’s lawsuit.

Brown and his passenger were questioned about guns and drugs and then released, but the money was not returned, according to the complaint. Brown made a formal complaint on June 11, 2009, and passed a polygraph that August about his interaction with the officers. Rayam and Giordano failed a polygraph about the incident, according to the complaint.

Avon Allen was speaking with friends on the street on Jan. 13, 2016, when he was arrested by Sergeant Wayne Jenkins and officers Marcus Taylor, Evodio Hendrix and Maurice Ward, according to Allen’s complaint. The officers claimed Allen looked armed, ran from them and resisted arrest.

Allen alleges he was beaten and charged with possessing a handgun, according to the complaint. He was later indicted and a mistrial was declared due to a hung jury in May 2016. Allen was federally indicted, but that case was dismissed in December 2016 just months before the officers were indicted, according to the complaint.

Baltimore prosecutors indicted Allen again in January 2017, but his case was dismissed after the officers’ indictment was announced, according to the complaint.

The cases are Eric Rich v. Officer Daniel Hersl et al., 1:20-cv-00488; Gary Brown v. Officer Jemell Rayam et al., 1:20-cv-00487; Avon Allen v. Officer Marcus Taylor et al., 1:20-cv-00489.

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