Lawyers Claim State’s Attorney’s Office “Encouraged” Gun Trace Task Force Crimes
By Brandon Soderberg and Baynard Woods
The Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) trial which wrapped up its second week on Thursday, has already provided numerous allegations of police misconduct. But a press conference today held by attorney Ivan Bates called attention to even more allegations and connected the dots between the GTTF and the State’s Attorney’s Office headed by Marilyn Mosby.
Flanked by fellow attorneys Natalie Finegar and Josh Insley and a number of clients who encountered GTTF, Bates, who is running for State’s Attorney, detailed what led him on a “seven year battle with Wayne Jenkins and members of that gang called the Gun Trace Task Force.”
Wayne Jenkins, Evodio Hendrix, Momodu Gondo, Jemell Rayam, Marcus Taylor, and Maurice Ward were all involved in the incidents detailed during the press conference—although, the victims made clear, the misconduct was not limited to these officers.
“They were together. If you see one police officer breaking the law, you just as guilty as them if you allow it,” said Shawn Whiting, who was arrested by Marcus Taylor, Maurice Ward of GTTF and another officer Eduardo Pinto in 2014.
“Here are just a few of the faces that have been terrorized by those criminals called the Gun Trace Task Force and we view them as a gang,” Bates said. “It’s important that we recognize that these few faces that you see are the individuals that you’ve been hearing about in the courtroom but there are so many more people that have been terrorized by these criminals.”
In November of 2010, Jamal Walker was pulled over in his car by then-Detective and GTTF leader Jenkins who claimed Walker smelled like weed, searched him and found no weed but did find cash ($40,000 according to Walker), and then headed to Walker’s home and tried to break in. Walker’s wife Jovonne set off their silent burglary alarm during the break-in which brought police to the residence who Jenkins sent away and then searched the home himself. Jenkins said he found two guns and reported $20,000 seized.
In January 2014, Whiting, who testified at the GTTF trial on Jan. 25, had money stolen from him after GTTF members pulled him over, claiming he ran five stop signs.
“This case is bigger than you’ve ever seen,” Whiting told the Beat and Real News after the press conference. “I already know it—through experience.”
In September 2016, Andre Crowder was pulled over and hit with a number of gun charges, which were eventually dropped. Crowder spent three days in jail he said, during the press conference, but those days were crucial days in his life and demonstrated how devastating even a short stint can be.
“When this occurred I was took away from my family for three days and within those three days I lost my three year-old son,” Crowder said. “I’m not a doctor but maybe I could have saved my son or whatever—but the three days I was gone I lost him. So it’s bigger than the charge they put on me.”
The officers involved in his arrest were GTTF’s Ward, Gondo, Hendrix, and Taylor.
Finegar focused on the State’s Attorney’s Office and made public what she said had been murmurs among lawyers, police, and city insiders for years: The SAO had known about GTTF for years and did nothing to stop it.
“The current State’s Attorney’s Office completely dropped the ball in this situation. They not only turned their back on the possibility that these officers were doing horrible things and violating the law themselves. They actually encouraged it by letting these officers get away with things time and time again. Between 2015 and 2017 the current State’s Attorney knew these officers weren’t showing up for court. 50 to 60 percent of the time these cases were being dismissed,” Finegar said.
Finegar, who was until recently a public defender, passed out a Jan. 21, 2016 memo about GTTF’s Detective Jemell Rayam from StacyAnn Llewellyn, the chief of the Baltimore City State’s Attorney Office, Public Trust and Police Integrity Unit, to Major Ian Dombroski in BPD’s IAD. The letter informed the police department that the SAO would be disclosing the results of a Franks hearing (a hearing held to determine if an officer lied to get a warrant) in which Judge Barry Williams—the judge in the case against the officers charged with Freddie Gray’s death—ruled that Rayam had not given credible testimony when he claimed to have seen drugs in plain view in the apartment of Gary Clayton. The charges were dropped. With Rayam during Clayton’s arrest were Gondo and John Clewell, the only GTTF officer not to face charges.
Dombrowski, who received the letter, was mentioned in the GTTF trials, when it was alleged that he came up with the overtime or slash days as rewards for getting guns off the street.
Finegar said that even though the “front office” of the State’s Attorney’s Office got the memo, “they continued to prosecute cases, they continued to fight the disclosure of records again and again and again.” She then pointed out that there is a State’s Attorney who “tipped the officers off about the investigation” and that the SAO has made no comment on whether anything happened to that State’s Attorney or not.
Insley detailed an arrest of one of his clients, Avon Allen, whose arrest reflected the approach heard by those who testified during the GTTF trial—“that they rolled up, they popped the doors, and when he flinched, they ran right after him.”
“The statement with the benefit of hindsight is so unbelievable,” Insley said. “It says that [Allen]’s running, they’re running after him, and they grab him by the legs and as he’s falling down, the gun goes flying and it skids right into a sewer. No fingerprints, no DNA because it went into a sewer.”
What happened to Allen illustrates the SAO’s troubling approach to prosecution and echoes the trials of Keith Davis Jr., who activists have said is being unfairly and doggedly pursued by Mosby’s office. When Allen went to trial, Insely said, the cop’s testimony didn’t convince a jury and Allen wasn’t charged. Then the SAO referred Allen’s case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, so they indict Allen but when a U.S. Attorney looks at the file and see the officers involved, they dismiss the indictment.
“What happens next shows how broken our system is,” Insley said and continued on to describe how the Deputy State’s Attorney got a warrant for Allen under a new indictment. Eventually, Judge Charles Peters released Allan. Not long after, Insley said, the federal indictments came down. Insley pointed out that Peters, as a U.S. Attorney had famously prosecuted dirty cops William King and Antonio Murray in 2006, calling them “urban predators.”
According to court records, the officers involved in Allen’s case were Jenkins, Ward, Hendrix, and Taylor.
The press conference was in part, a campaign event to be sure. But it also provided important context about the lives that have been disrupted or shattered by GTTF.