$6.4M to Freddie Gray’s family
Baltimore agrees to pay before trials of police officers
Free Press wire reports | 9/10/2015, 11:41 p.m.
Baltimore city officials on Wednesday approved a $6.4 million civil settlement to the family of Freddie Gray, whose death from an injury in police custody triggered protests and rioting.
The unanimous vote by the Board of Estimates comes ahead of a Thursday hearing on moving the trials of six police officers charged in Mr. Gray’s death out of the city.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a member of the financial control panel, said the payment would resolve any related civil claims against Baltimore and avoid possibly years of federal litigation over Mr. Gray’s death.
“This settlement is about making the right fiscal decision for the city of Baltimore,” she said at a news conference.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake said the settlement bore no judgment on the guilt or innocence of the six officers.
The mayor also extended her condolences to the Gray family.
“Money cannot bring back a ... loved one but I hope it will bring some measure of closure,” she said.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake rejected criticism of the deal from the Fraternal Order of Police, saying the settlement meant the charged officers would be protected from any civil suit.
The Fraternal Order of Police criticized the settlement since no civil suit had been filed and said it could sour relations between officers and City Hall.
A settlement before the trials “is obscene and without regard to the fiduciary responsibility owed to the taxpaying citizens of the city,” the union said in a statement.
City Solicitor George Nilson said the settlement negotiations lasted three and a half months. The $6.4 million payment is based on those from similar police cases, including the $5.9 million New York paid to the family of Eric Garner, an African-American who died in 2014 from a chokehold by a white officer, he said.
The City Hall statement said Mr. Gray’s family would be paid $2.8 million in the current fiscal year and $3.6 million in the one starting July 1, 2016.
The five members of the Board of Estimates control city finances.
The payout would be the latest settlement by Baltimore over allegations of police brutality. Since 2011, the city has paid a total of $5.7 million in police-related court judgments and settlements, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Billy Murphy, a lawyer for the Gray family, said at a news conference that he had been approached by the city about a deal.
Asked if the family would attend the trials, he said that “they want to grieve in peace.”
The hearing in Baltimore City Circuit Court will be on whether the officers’ separate trials should be moved from the largely African-American city of about 620,000 people.
Defense lawyers argue that intense publicity makes it impossible to hold a fair trial in Baltimore.
The officers face charges ranging from second-degree depraved heart murder to assault and misconduct. Three of the officers are black and three are white.
Officers arrested Mr. Gray, 25, on April 12 after a foot chase. He was bundled into a police transport van while shackled and handcuffed, and later hospitalized with severe spinal and larynx injuries.
He died a week later from a spinal injury. His death sparked protests in Baltimore and across the country and fueled the ongoing debate on police treatment of African-Americans.