Two Officers Charged in Freddie Gray’s Death Sue for Defamation

By Kenrya Rankin May 26, 2016

Just days after Baltimore Police officer Edward Nero was acquitted for his role in the death of 25-year-old Black man Freddie Gray, The Baltimore Sun reports that two officers implicated in Gray’s death have filed suit against the case’s major players.

Sgt. Alicia White and Officer William Porter filed a lawsuit against Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore sheriff’s office Maj. Sam Cogen and the State of Maryland, levying allegations of defamation and invasion of privacy. White and Porter were both charged with involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office. They are just two of the six officers linked to Gray’s death, which occurred after he was shackled and roughly transported in a police van without proper restraints.

The suit was filed on May 2, but yesterday (May 25), Judge Althea Handy denied a motion to seal the case. The suit alleges that Mosby and Cogen issued false charges against them. “These among other statements were made not for the purpose of prosecuting crimes that had allegedly been committed by White and Porter, but rather for purposes of quelling the riots in Baltimore,” the suit reads.

Experts say the lawsuit is a stretch. Per The Baltimore Sun:

A. Dwight Pettit, who litigates civil cases in Baltimore but is not involved in this case, said prosecutors enjoy immunity from being sued “unless you can show some sort of malicious intent, which is a very steep burden.”

“It’s very unusual,” he said of the officers’ lawsuit. “The allegations would have to border on intentional conduct to cause them irreparable injury.” …

Pettit said the fact that Porter’s case proceeded all the way to jury deliberations—with [Circuit Judge Barry G.] Williams denying motions to dismiss the charges outright or for a judgment of acquittal after the state rested its case—shows the charges had some merit in the eyes of the court. That will make it more difficult for White and Porter to successfully argue now that prosecutors knew the charges were unfounded, he said.

“They would have to prove that they were frivolous and without substance and that she knew the charges could not stand, and none of that has developed,” he said.