The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund is raising money for the six Baltimore Police officers who were charged in the death of Freddie Gray, saying in a letter that the officers are “moms, dads, sons and daughters” who were just doing their job.
In a letter to supporters, President Ron Hosko enclosed family photos of the officers, with brief bios about each one.
“The Black Lives Matter thugs want you to think that the “Baltimore Six” are racist, abusive cops,” Hosko’s letter read. “But if you look at the six photos I’ve enclosed, you’ll see who they really are: moms, dads, sons and daughters – three of whom are African-American themselves—who were simply doing their duty that day.”
— Brian Kuebler (@BrianfromABC2) June 8, 2016
Hosko called for donations to help pay for the officers’ defenses. He said LELDF could end up spending more than $1 million.
In a statement, Hassan Giordano, chairman of the Baltimore NAACP's criminal justice committee, took issue with the LELDF's portrayal of Gray in the fundraising letter. Hosko's letter went into detail about Gray's criminal record.
"While the LELDF tries to put a positive spin on the unfortunate incident that took the life of a young, vibrant 25-year-old citizen, by trying to paint a more humanistic picture of these officers by showing them with their families, one thing we know for sure is that thanks to the irresponsible actions of these officers, Freddie Gray will never get to see his family again while these officers remain free to carry on with their families as if nothing ever happened," Giordano said.
"It's sickening to see them try to portray Mr. Gray as some less than worthy thug by alluding to his past criminal record and 'street theatrics' which has no relevance as to why these six officers have been charged with various crimes; instead of sticking to the facts which are that this young man did not deserve to die because of some overzealous cops who can't even follow the rules and regulations spelled out in their handbook, deciding instead to take justice into their own hands rather than sincerely trying to make the streets of Baltimore safer," he said.
Elyshia Aseltine, a professor of criminal justice at Towson University, said the high emotions the trials are stirring are deeply historical.
"These are problems we have been dealing with for a long, long time," Aseltine said. "It's not anything new, unfortunately. Probably the difference is how much attention we're paying to it, and that could be because of social media."
She pointed out that the LELDF was founded following the Rodney King case in 1992, when four Los Angeles police officers were arrested for beating King after a high-speed chase. The officers were acquitted, sparking citywide riots.
"It's important to put this group into context," Aseltine said.
The trial for the third of the six officers, Caesar Goodson, began Thursday morning.
Officer William Porter, whose first trial ended in a mistrial last year, is scheduled to stand trial again this month. Officer Edward Nero was acquitted last month.
Hosko wrote in his letter that court costs for the officers have already topped $500,000.
He said LELDF will help the officers cover those costs, as well as help find medical experts and forensic specialists who can prove that Gray’s injuries were self-inflicted.
Gray died in April 2015, a week after being injured in police custody. His death touched off several days of riots in Baltimore, and led to the charges against the six officers.
The trials of Sgt. Alicia White, Lt. Brian Rice and Officer Garrett Miller are still pending.