Two Baltimore police officers facing criminal charges in the death of a young black man whose neck was broken in the back of a police van have sued the city’s top prosecutor and an official in the sheriff’s office for defamation.
Officer William Porter and Sgt. Alicia White filed the suit against Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and Maj. Sam Cogen in Baltimore Circuit Court on May 2.
Porter and White are among six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray. Gray, 25, died on April 19, 2015, a week after his neck was broken in the back of a police transport van while he was handcuffed and shackled, but left unrestrained by a seat belt. His death prompted protests that gave way to looting and civil unrest.
Porter’s trial in November ended in a mistrial. His retrial is scheduled for September. White is scheduled to be tried in October.
The officers allege in their suit that Mosby, who announced charges on May 1 of last year, knowingly made false statements when she alleged wrongdoing on the part of the officers.
The suit cites statements Mosby made that Porter and White knew Gray was in distress when they checked on him in the back of the transport wagon, but ignored his cries for help and did nothing to administer aid.
“These statements were defamatory because they exposed Plaintiffs to public scorn, hatred and contempt, and thereby discouraging others in the community from having a favorable opinion of, or association with, Plaintiffs,” the lawsuit says.
The suit also reads that Mosby and Cogen “breached their duty to Plaintiffs by bringing unsupported criminal charges then publicly publishing same,” and that Mosby’s statements were made “for the purpose of quelling the riots rather than prosecuting police officers who had committed crimes.”
None of the parties involved is permitted to comment due to a gag order in the case.
Legal experts say the officers’ lawsuit is a stretch.
The plaintiffs moved to seal the suit, but Baltimore Circuit Judge Althea Handy denied the motion Wednesday.