The family of Freddie Gray, a Baltimore man killed by a violent ride in the back of a police van, might have to wait a little bit longer for their settlement from the City of Baltimore. According to The Baltimore Sun, the family’s $6.4 million settlement has been caught up in a political fight.
The Sun reported that a City Council panel balked at Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s plan to pay $2 million to a Washington law firm to help prepare for a Department of Justice investigation. Unfortunately, funding for the Gray family’s settlement is included in a two-part bill recently withdrawn by the Budget and Appropriations committee. Because the committee rejected paying for the law firm’s services, the Gray family’s settlement is also in limbo.
According to The Sun, many members of the City Council say they have no problem with the Gray family’s settlement, but they questioned paying WilmerHale, the Washington, D.C. law firm helping Baltimore police with the Justice Department probe.
Council Vice President Edward Reisinger said the City Council wasn’t fully briefed on why WilmerHale was hired.
“The City Council is an institution and we are elected by the people of our districts,” said Reisinger. “We have the right to know when they are spending the taxpayers’ money. The ball is in their court.”
In a letter to the City Council, Michael Greenberger, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and former Justice Department official, said WilmerHale’s services were needed to help the Baltimore PD prepare for an “enormous” probe. The firm has been hired to do legal research, email analysis, fact evaluation and negotiate with Justice Department lawyers.
Greenberger added that without WilmerHale’s assistance, the Baltimore PD wouldn’t be able to effectively serve local residents.
According to Councilwoman Helen Holton, the problem could be solved by splitting the spending into two separate bills. The settlement to the Gray family will be paid from the Police Department legal fund.
Meanwhile, trials continue for the Baltimore 6, the officers indicted for Gray’s murder. Unfortunately, the trials seem to have run into a legal roadblock. The first trial of Officer William Porter ended in a deadlocked decision. He is set to be retried in June.
However, his attorneys are fighting to prevent him from being forced to testify in the trials of other officers. According to The Sun, Porter’s attorney says forcing their client to testify would be a violation of his Fifth Amendment right of self-incrimination and could open him up to future prosecution.
Prosecutors see Porter as a key witness in the trials of other officers in the Baltimore 6. Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. was set to be tried on Monday, but his case was postponed while an appellate court considers Porter’s request to be excused from testifying.