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Baltimore poised to settle another GTTF evidence-planting lawsuit

Baltimore’s Board of Estimates will vote on a six-figure settlement next week to end a civil rights lawsuit stemming from allegations that members of the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force planted a gun on a man who went on to serve time in prison for possessing the weapon.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Darnell Earl, has agreed to accept $575,000 to settle the suit, which he filed in 2020. The Board of Estimates will vote on the settlement on Wednesday.

“My client was very much in accord with the agreement and the settlement,” said A. Dwight Pettit, one of the lawyers who represented Earl. “We’re happy that he’s satisfied and the litigation on that particular case is over.”

The complaint claimed that Earl was a passenger in a vehicle that police pulled over on East Monument Street in 2015. The officers involved in the stop were Sgt. Wayne Jenkins and detectives Evodio Hendrix and Marcus Taylor.

All three have since been convicted of crimes related to the Gun Trace Task Force. Jenkins is serving 25 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in 2017 to racketeering and other crimes related to his time in the Baltimore Police Department gun unit. Taylor is serving 18 years in prison. Evodio was freed from prison earlier this year after serving five years.

The city is still facing a wave of lawsuits stemming from Gun Trace Task Force officers, who were accused of widespread corruption over a span of years.

Earl claimed that the three plainclothes GTTF officers had no probable cause to pull over the vehicle he was riding in on Oct. 18, 2015. He and the driver were both ordered out of the vehicle while it was searched, according to the complaint, and the officers falsely claimed they had found a firearm under Earl’s seat.

Earl was arrested and charged with firearms offenses. Because he had been convicted of possessing an illegal firearm as a minor, he was not allowed to have a gun and faced enhanced penalties, the complaint claims.

Earl accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to five years in prison. He served one and a half years in prison, according to the complaint.

After the three officers were convicted of federal charges related to the GTTF, the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office moved to vacate Earl’s conviction based on the officers’ involvement.

Earl’s lawsuit brought claims of false arrest and imprisonment, fabrication of evidence, negligent supervision and training and a custom or policy of deliberate indifference to the ways in which police officers were violating city residents’ rights.

Earl agreed to dismiss all claims against the officers, the Baltimore Police Department and the city as part of his settlement.

A spokesperson for the city did not return a request for comment.