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In Focus: Gun Trace Task Force Settlement Money

Money
Posted at 6:11 AM, Jul 26, 2021

BALTIMORE — Baltimore City's Board of Estimates has approved another settlement, in the fallout of the City's Gun Trace Task Force.

This $525,000 settlement is the 30th such agreement that the City has come to with individuals.

That comes to more than $14 million in settlements, of varying amounts.

A situation the city's Comptroller, Bill Henry calls, "incredibly frustrating."

"No matter which internal pot of money it's coming from, it represents money that the city can't make available, to do other things to perform services, to provide additional capital improvements, their city-owned property," he says.

It's a balancing act in taxpayer dollars.

"Bad things happened to citizens Baltimore, and they deserve to be made whole," Henry added. "And so you look at a $525,000 settlement and on the one hand, you see somebody who spent four years in prison for something that they didn't do, and you want to try to make them whole for that. But on the other hand, you look at that $525,000. And you think that's like two rec centers for an entire year, in terms of the staff costs."

And that $14 million figure doesn't include the amount spent by the city to pay for the former Task Force members legal defense.

Something that Comptroller Henry would like to see change in the General Assembly.

"This is one of the reasons why it is so important that the General Assembly make some meaningful changes to the state law governing this," he says. "A number were made last year, but there is still a lot of work to be done in this area."

Andrew Freeman is a partner at Brown, Goldstein and Levy, and represented a few of the victims of the Gun Trace Task Force misconduct.

He says, the City of Baltimore got off easy.

"I think the city's gotten off really cheap," says Freeman. "I mean, for all of the hundreds of men who were improperly locked up, robbed extorted by the GTTF, the city's paid less than $15 million."

But that's not even close to some of the other cases Freeman is handling.

"There's this second group of suits," he says, "which are fewer people, but far more money for men who were wrongly convicted as a result of the homicide unit, concealing exculpatory evidence or concealing evidence that their witnesses were lying. And in some cases, fabricating evidence."

In the case of Sabein Burgess, the City will need to pay out a $15 million verdict - already more than all of the GTTF settlements, combined.

Something that is necessary, but also frustrating.

Freeman added, "As a city taxpayer.. those are the cases that are going to take the most money away from other worthy causes, again, justifiably as a city taxpayer, those men were locked up in my name and should be fully compensated."