2 sue po­lice for $40M

Wrongly im­pris­oned, plain­tiffs cite case of Gun Trace Task Force

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Justin Fen­ton

Two men who served fed­eral prison time af­ter Bal­ti­more po­lice planted drugs on them to jus­tify a fa­tal high-speed chase in 2010 filed a law­suit Wed­nes­day seek­ing more than $40 mil­lion in dam­ages, ac­cord­ing to their at­tor­neys.

Umar Bur­ley and Brent Matthews, who are su­ing the Bal­ti­more Po­lice Depart­ment and the State of Mary­land, al­lege that po­lice “knew or should have known” that the depart­ment’s elite units en­gaged in il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity.

Bur­ley and Matthews were in a ve­hi­cle in April 2010 when they say masked of­fi­cers sud­denly sur­rounded their car, caus­ing them to be­lieve they were be­ing at­tacked. Bur­ley sped away and crashed into an­other ve­hi­cle at an in­ter­sec­tion, killing 86-year-old El­bert Davis. Drugs were then planted in Bur­ley’s ve­hi­cle.

The plant­ing was not re­vealed un­til last fall, as part of the con­tin­u­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into eight for­mer mem­bers of the Bal­ti­more Po­lice Gun Trace Task Force that re­vealed wide­spread mis­con­duct. Fed­eral au­thor­i­ties un­cov­ered sev­eral rob­beries com­mit­ted by the of­fi­cers us­ing the au­thor­ity of their

badges, which were cov­ered up by of­fi­cers fal­si­fy­ing pa­per­work and ly­ing in court. The of­fi­cers were also steal­ing over­time, and co­op­er­at­ing de­fen­dants out­lined rou­tine un­con­sti­tu­tional polic­ing prac­tices.

Six of the of­fi­cers pleaded guilty in fed­eral court to a range of crimes. Two oth­ers were con­victed at trial this year.

Bur­ley was serv­ing time for man­slaugh­ter and fed­eral drug con­vic­tions be­fore he was re­leased from prison in Au­gust. Matthews had al­ready served his term of nearly four years. Their con­vic­tions were va­cated in De­cem­ber by a fed­eral judge at the re­quest of fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors.

“The fact still re­mains, how­ever, that two in­no­cent men were wrong­fully in­car­cer­ated ‘for far too long’ as a re­sult of the BPD’s fail­ings as de­scribed herein,” they say in the law­suit, filed by the law firm of Sil­ver­man Thomp­son Slutkin and White.

They named as a de­fen­dant for­mer Gun Trace Task Force Sgt. Wayne Jenk­ins, who was sen­tenced this month to 25 years in prison. They also named three of­fi­cers who have not been crim­i­nally charged with wrong­do­ing: Sgt. Ryan Guinn, re­tired Sgt. Keith Glad­stone and the es­tate of slain homi­cide de­tec­tive Sean Suiter, who was killed the day be­fore he was set to tes­tify be­fore a grand jury about the in­ci­dent.

Jenk­ins, Suiter and Guinn have been iden­ti­fied as be­ing in­volved in the at­tempted stop, pur­suit and ar­rests. The plain­tiffs claim that Glad­stone was the of­fi­cer who brought drugs to be planted in Bur­ley’s car.

Glad­stone could not be reached for com­ment Wed­nes­day.

Glad­stone re­tired from the depart­ment in De­cem­ber 2012, and re­joined it a year later. He re­tired again on May1, 2017.

Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors said in an in­dict­ment against Jenk­ins that Jenk­ins told Guinn, iden­ti­fied in court pa­pers as “Of­fi­cer #2,” to call an un­named sergeant who was not at the scene “be­cause he had ‘the stuff,’ … or words to that ef­fect.”

Jenk­ins later told Guinn that “the stuff” was now in Bur­ley’s car, and that Suiter was Brent Matthews and Umar Bur­ley leave court with their at­tor­ney, Steve Sil­ver­man, af­ter a judge agreed in De­cem­ber to va­cate their con­vic­tions. duped into un­wit­tingly dis­cov­er­ing it, pros­e­cu­tors said in the in­dict­ment.

Jenk­ins has sought to dis­tance him­self from plant­ing the drugs. But at his sen­tenc­ing last week, he tear­fully ac­knowl­edged that he knew some­one else had done it and didn’t speak up.

“From the bot­tom of my heart, I wish I could take that day back and not have stopped that ve­hi­cle,” Jenk­ins said. “I wish I had come clean when I found out the drugs were planted.”

Jenk­ins’ at­tor­ney, Steve Levin, de­clined to com­ment on the law­suit, but said his client “has been hon­est about his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the mat­ter, and I an­tic­i­pate he’ll con­tinue to be hon­est and open.”

Guinn re­mains with the depart­ment. He was as­signed to the train­ing academy ear­lier this year. He was ac­cused dur­ing the trial of the Gun Trace Task Force of­fi­cers of tip­ping off of­fi­cers to the pend­ing fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

For­mer Com­mis­sioner Kevin Davis said in an in­ter­view be­fore he was fired in Jan­uary that he had spo­ken with the FBI about Guinn and was “ab­so­lutely con­fi­dent that there are no ad­min­is­tra­tive sanc­tions to pur­sue against” him.

Guinn could not be reached for com­ment Wed­nes­day.

City so­lic­i­tor An­dre M. Davis said the city ex­pects “a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of law­suits of this type.”

“In ac­cor­dance with our con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions and the le­gal re­quire­ments im­posed by state law, we will pro­vide at­tor­neys to de­fend the of­fi­cers against the claims that have been as­serted,” Davis said in a state­ment. “We will also pro­vide an at­tor­ney to de­fend the Es­tate of De­tec­tive Suiter.”

Davis said the city does not in­tend to pay any judg­ments that might be en­tered against the of­fi­cers who have been con­victed of con­spir­acy and rack­e­teer­ing in fed­eral court.

The plain­tiffs trace mis­con­duct al­le­ga­tions against city po­lice plain­clothes units to the 2006 flex squad con­tro­versy, af­ter which the Spe­cial En­force­ment Team units were dis­banded. They also note the fed­eral in­dict­ments of Bal­ti­more Po­lice Of­fi­cers Wil­liam King and An­to­nio Mur­ray, who were to­gether sen­tenced to more than 400 years af­ter be­ing con­victed of shak­ing down drug deal­ers in 2005. And they cite the find­ings of the con­sent de­cree re­form agree­ment with the Jus­tice Depart­ment.

“BPD pol­i­cy­mak­ers, aware of spe­cific in­stances of po­lice mis­con­duct acutely sim­i­lar to that at is­sue here since at least 2006 and armed with ac­tual knowl­edge of GTTF of­fi­cers’ mis­con­duct both be­fore and af­ter the events at is­sue here took place, failed to ad­e­quately su­per­vise and/or dis­ci­pline their of­fi­cers, thus al­low­ing for the un­con­sti­tu­tional con­duct de­scribed herein to oc­cur,” they wrote.

Bur­ley and Matthews both pleaded guilty to the charges they faced at the time.

“There was no real choice to make,” they wrote. “State and fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors threat­ened to seek the harsh­est pun­ish­ments avail­able against the plain­tiffs if they did not en­ter ‘univer­sal’ guilty pleas.”

Bur­ley was on his way to a sen­tenc­ing hear­ing for the killer of one of his cousins when the ar­rest oc­curred, his lawyers say. He was un­able to at­tend that hear­ing and pro­vide sup­port to his fam­ily. As a re­sult of his in­car­cer­a­tion he missed the birth of his grand­chil­dren.

One of his daugh­ters was 7 years old when he was ar­rested, and is now grad­u­at­ing from high school.

LLOYD FOX/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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