Lawsuit against police department time-barred; judge dismisses case
A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department from Demetric Simon, the man who had a BB gun planted on him after convicted ex-police Sgt. Wayne Jenkins ran him over with a car.
U.S. District Judge Julie R. Rubin found Simon’s lawsuit was time-barred, meaning the statute of limitations had passed, and that the police department enjoyed a claim of “sovereign immunity” under Maryland law, according to an opinion filed Saturday. At the time the lawsuit was filed, the police department was a state agency, and state agencies are generally immune to civil lawsuits, Rubin wrote. The lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, meaning the same claims cannot be re-filed.
Baltimore residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of the city having control of its police department last November, and the process of deciding what that looks like is ongoing.
Simon, through his attorneys Michael Wein and Lawrence Greenberg, was suing a cadre of current and former officers, as well as the department, for a violation of his civil and Constitutional rights among other claims. He was seeking $17 million in damages.
There is no dispute as to what happened to Simon. In March 2014, Jenkins, the leader of the now-defunct Gun Trace Task Force, saw Simon and, believing he was dealing drugs, chased Simon down with his car and ran him over in Northeast Baltimore. But Jenkins could not find any drugs.
Enter ex-BPD Sgt. Keith Gladstone. Working with two other officers, his subordinates Carmine Vignola and Robert Hankard, Gladstone got a BB gun and drove out to the scene where he dropped the gun. Simon served 317 days in jail on the bogus gun charges and, in a letter to the court last year, called the whole experience “dehumanizing.”
Vignola and Gladstone would later lie to the grand jury about their roles in the incident.
Vignola, Hankard and Gladstone have been convicted for their roles in the gun-planting scheme.
In sentencing Gladstone, U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake called his conduct “a very egregious abuse of trust.”
Jenkins was sentenced to 25 years in prison for a host of other crimes.
Rubin wrote that Simon’s lawsuit should have been brought earlier, and that the threeyear window for civil rights claims began ticking in 2015, when he was released from custody.
“His release date is the latest possible date on which he had actual notice and knowledge that a criminal proceeding had been instituted against him without probable cause,” Rubin wrote.
Simon’s lawyers had previously argued his claim for damages began in March 2019, when federal prosecutors sent him a letter that said he was a “victim of Officer Gladstone and others.”
The city’s lawyers have been able to get other lawsuits involving the Gun Trace Task Force dismissed under the statute of limitations.
A lawsuit against former Baltimore detective Daniel Hersl was dismissed in 2020 because the misconduct in question happened in 2007, and when the plaintiff was released from custody in 2008, a judge determined the countdown clock should have begun then.
Hersl had a reputation on the streets of Baltimore as an allegedly abusive cop even before the Gun Trace Task Force came under investigation by federal prosecutors. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2018 for his role in the task force’s schemes to rob people, deal drugs and steal overtime.