The Board of Estimates approved a $6.4 million dollar settlement for the family of Freddie Gray, whose death in police custody sparked riots, mass protests and calls for change
BERNARD C. “JACK” YOUNG: All those in favor say aye. [Response] All opposed, nay. The motion carries. VIDEO: On September 9, 2015, the Baltimore City Board of Estimates approved a $6.4 million wrongful death settlement to the family of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old Baltimore resident who died after being arrested in April. MAYOR STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: We came to the conclusion that this settlement is in the best interests of protecting taxpayers. The settlement also represents an opportunity to bring a measure of closure to the Gray family, to the community, and to the city. We can avoid years and years of protracted civil litigation and potential harm to the community, and the divisiveness which might result. The city’s decision to settle the civil case should not be interpreted as passing any judgment on guilt or innocence of the officers. This settlement is about making the right fiscal decision for the city of Baltimore. Faced with the prospect of significant legal expenses involved in an extended federal lawsuit, as well as the potential liability that could come with an unfavorable jury verdict, our city’s attorneys came to the conclusion that the $6.4 million settlement is in the best interest of protecting taxpayers.
JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: On Tuesday the city of Baltimore announced it had reached a $6.4 million wrongful death settlement with the family of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old whose death in police custody sparked both peaceful protest and rioting. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement the settlement, quote, “should not be interpreted as a judgment on the guilt or innocence of the officers facing trial.” The deal, which still needs approval from the Board of Estimates on Wednesday, comes amidst the pre-trial motions for the six officers charged with killing Gray. Their trials are scheduled for October. Top civil rights attorney A. Dwight Pettit praised the move. A. DWIGHT PETTIT: The city is thinking in terms of its image, of what we’ve been through with the riots, what took place in Baltimore City in terms of the citizenry actually being sick and tired of this type of not only police conduct but police administrative silence and standing behind the police when the police are obviously wrong. NOOR: While the police union strongly condemned it, saying, quote: “To suggest that there is any reason to settle prior to adjudication of the pending criminal case is obscene.” They continued, “The news threatens to interrupt any progress made toward restoring the relationship between members of the Baltimore police and the city government.” Pettit disagrees with the notion the civil settlement could have an impact on Thursday’s hearing of a defense motion to move the trial outside of Baltimore. PETTIT: I don’t think that changes any circumstances in terms of the removal or change of venue issue. NOOR: Pettit says the global media’s attention, graphic video, mass protests, and the upcoming election season all contributed to the city making the deal. This is something they don’t always do. An example is the case of one of Pettit’s clients, 15-year-old Michael Johnson, who was picked up and dropped off in Howard County without his shoes. PETTIT: That was a case where the Board of Estimates, which will meet tomorrow on the Gray case, where the Board of Estimates agreed just to a small amount, $150,000. And then turned around, when the Board of Estimates voted, the mayor voted against it. And she controls the Board of Estimates. And decided not to pay it. NOOR: A Sun investigation found the city paid over $5.7 million to settle 102 cases of “undue force” over the past five years, which pales in comparison to payouts in other major cities without caps like those that exist in Maryland. PETTIT: Because I think when you start talking in terms of real dollars, in terms of liabilities and so forth, that accountability will very quickly make the administration of both the city as well as the police department get rid of the bad apples and solve the police brutality problem very quickly. NOOR: Others we talked to were less optimistic. DEVON STEVENSON: I really think that the money situation just gets people to take their mind off of the actual event and the actual things that happened. And with these cases keep coming out where people’s families are being paid, it’s manipulating the [cycle] because people are fighting for change. And the change is not happening. The only thing they’re changing is somebody’s financial status. That’s it. NOOR: –going to change any of the underlying social conditions and the issues of police brutality and the lack of accountability? LAWRENCE BROWN: Well, absolutely not. It’s not going to change the lack of accountability, the plethora, the prevalence of police brutality in this city. All this does is says that the city’s trying to wash its hands of the legalities related to this case. So we haven’t yet had a transformation in the way that Baltimore City polices citizens. We haven’t had a reformation in the terms, in the sense of how Baltimore City police officers engage with protesters in the city. We saw last week activist Kwame Rose was arrested and accosted by the Baltimore City Police Department, and attached with three or four very serious charges. So you know, the reform hasn’t happened. We’re far from that. This money is only–it doesn’t even say that the city’s guilty. It’s only saying that it’s trying to wrap up the case as it relates to what happened to Freddie Gray. NOOR: From Baltimore, this is Jaisal Noor.