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Publius / September 9, 2015

Baltimore Settles in Freddie Gray Civil Suit

Gray’s family won this round of legal lotto.

In an effort to put the whole debacle in the past, the City of Baltimore settled a civil suit brought about by the death of Freddie Gray. The $6.4 million settlement is separate from the criminal trial (or trials, depending on how that legal drama plays out) of the six police officers associated with Gray’s death. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement, “The proposed settlement agreement going before the Board of Estimates should not be interpreted as a judgment on the guilt or innocence of the officers facing trial. This settlement is being proposed solely because it is in the best interest of the city, and avoids costly and protracted litigation that would only make it more difficult for our city to heal and potentially cost taxpayers many millions more in damages.”

And just like that, Gray’s family won this round of the legal lotto. To be clear, the settlements in these cases of alleged police brutality have never been about justice. New York City agreed to pay out $5.9 million for the death of Eric Garner. But where is the settlement for the death of Walter Scott? In the video of that incident, it was clear the police officer leveled his gun against the fleeing Scott, aimed and killed him. Baltimore is helping to set a precedent where if enough frenzy is drummed up over the death of someone in police custody — and in Gray’s instance, he might have been trying to intentionally harm himself — the money will flow soon after to make the issue go away.

Settlements are typically based on earnings capabilities, so this should have been a relatively small one. A settlement for $100,000 would have been reasonable; a payout of $6.4 million is absurd. Second, the settlement occurred before the trial of the police officers, which serves as an admission of guilt by the mayor of Baltimore. Settling a huge dollar reward like this ahead of a criminal trial is unprecedented. It is tantamount to the city saying that the six officers are guilty. If cities could be rated on stupidity, this would be at the very top of the heap. It’d be one thing if the payout for the death of a drug dealer who probably injured himself had happened after the trial. But it happened before the jury’s even been selected, and that’s outrageous.

In Maryland, you can make certain awards when police injure a citizen, but it’s capped at $400,000. How they got to the $6.4 million formulation is typical of everything else happening in Baltimore. In effect, it’s an attempt to hush the whole community. We think Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton perfected this extortion racket.

(Updated.)

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