Articles Posted in Constitutional Violations

The Gun Trace Task Force was an elite unit within the Baltimore City Police Department tasked with getting illegal guns off the streets.  But as a blockbuster federal investigation revealed, GTTF members were themselves criminals of the worst kind: crooked cops who conspired to terrorize the very same citizens they swore to protect and defend.  Their misconduct was shocking even for a City accustomed to police scandals: suspicion-less stops and arrests, writing false police reports and fake search warrants, lying in court, planting evidence, beating detainees, robbing citizens, and on and on.  Some measure of justice was achieved after the officers involved were convicted of federal conspiracy charges, but the battle to ensure appropriate compensation for the victims is ongoing.  A recent decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals in two cases brought by GTTF victims represents an important victory in that battle.

In Baltimore City Police Department, et al. v. Ivan Potts, Misc. No. 6, September Term, 2019, and Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Estate of William James, No. 51, Sept. Term, 2019 (, the Court considered whether Baltimore City and the Police Department should be forced to pay judgments against GTTF officers obtained by two victims, Ivan Potts and William James.  The facts of their cases are egregious, but sadly typical of the crimes committed by the GTTF officers.

Ivan Potts

As a Baltimore Maryland Criminal Attorney for almost 20 years I have long recognized that when defending people you must not let the perfect result become the enemy of the good result, particularly when dealing with serious felonies such as possession with the intent to distribute controlled dangerous substances. I watch far too many inexperienced or simply ineffective attorneys treat criminal defense as if it is a zero sum game in which every case must result in either total vindication or total devastation for the client.

The truth of the matter is that in many cases, a properly prepared defense attorney with a well analyzed and prepared defense, can negotiate a resolution that is more than satisfactory to the client without exposing her to the risks of taking the case to trial. In many cases, if the prosecutor can be convinced that there are legitimate defenses to the case that may cause her to lose her case entirely, she may reduce her plea offer to something the defendant is willing to accept or even dismiss the case altogether. I had an excellent example of just such a situation play out last week in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County. Here are the facts:
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This week, a judge sitting in the Circuit Court for Harford County, Maryland ruled after a lengthy motion’s hearing that the prosecutor violated my client’s due process rights. The result was that all charges including attempted murder and first degree assault were dismissed. This case involved some unique facts and circumstances that if appealed, may garner some attention by the appellate courts.

Pertinent Facts:

On May 22, 2009, a district court charging document was issued by the Harford County police charging the Defendant with assaulting his wife on May 20, 2009 and charging him with the attempted murder of his brother in law on May 21, 2009. The Defendant was held without bail from May 22, 2009 until June 10, 2009 when bail was set at $25,000. The Defendant paid a bondsman and was released. On that date, the charges with respect to the incident with his brother-in-law were dismissed. At that time, the State dismissed the charges because the brother-in-law was on active duty and soon to be deployed out of the country. Thereafter, in October, 2009, the Defendant’s wife invoked her marital privilege and the Defendant was found not guilty of assaulting her.

Sixteen months passed and the Defendant had no other criminal arrests. Despite the fact that the Defendant had no further contacts with law enforcement, at the time of the filing of the indictment in the above captioned matter, the prosecutor requested a no bail warrant. The Defendant was arrested on October 7, 2010 and held without bail. On October 13, 2010, a bail review was held and his bond was set at $250,000. The Defendant paid a bondsman a second time and was released.
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Maryland Criminal/Civil Appeals Attorney discusses new opinion by the Maryland Court of Appeals dealing with Miranda Warnings.

A new case was decided by Judge Barbera of the Maryland Court of Appeals on April 14, 2010 dealing with Miranda. The State alleged that Mr. Luckett believed his wife was having an affair with his son’s football coach. Mr. Luckett was alleged to have killed his wife and then went to the football coach’s place of business, a barber shop, and killed him.
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As a Maryland Criminal Attorney I am often confronted with cases in which a white police officer stops an African American (usally a man). In many, if not most, of these cases the person stopped believes that he was racially profiled or that at the very least, his race played a part in the officer’s decision to stop and/or arrest him.

Baltimore Maryland Criminal Attorney – Lawyers for the ACLU filed a report with the United Nations Committee to End Racial Discrimination yesterday stating that despite efforts by senior law enforcement and government officials to stop it, racial profiling still persists in this country.

The report claims that Asian Immigrants and immigrants from North Africa have been the targets of much of the racial profiling the latter group because they may be suspected of being Islamic terrorist. Latin Americans have also been targeted for possible immigration violations and African Americans were targeted because of suspected narcotics trafficking, according to the report. The Obama administration stated that it is opposed to racial profiling with exceptions for national security and border investigations.

The answer to the question, at least according to this Maryland Criminal Attorney, is, I don’t know yet but what I have seen over the past few weeks has sure made me suspicious. Racial Profiling Cases, also known as “Driving While Black” cases occur when police officers stop citizens based on innate characteristics such as race and age as well as factors such as clothing and the type of vehicle the person is driving. These stops typically occur on I-95 and involve young black males driving rental cars or cars with out of state plates, especially cars bearing Florida or New York plates.

As some may be aware, Maryland has a bit of a sordid past with this issue. In fact the State Police settled a lawsuit just last year that was filed on behalf of several men who claimed that they had been “profiled” after fighting the ACLU for 12 years. The State Police paid out over $400,000 and agreed to hire an independent monitor to make sure this behavior is not repeated. So why am I suspicious that the MTA Police are engaged in racial profiling so soon after the State Police settlement? Here is why:
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Maryland Criminal Attorney – Does a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for a 13 year old constitute cruel and unusual punishment and therefore violate the 8th Amendment to the Constitution? That is exactly the question that the United State’s Supreme Court may consider in a 20 year old case from Florida. There was an article about this case in the New York Times today explaining the basic facts as well as the possibility that the Supreme Court will hear the case.

Although the facts of the case are not technically relevant to the 8th Amendment issue, I think they are worth a brief description. The Defendant in the case, Joe Sullivan, was one of three boys who admitted to burglarizing a 72 year old Florida Woman’s home in 1989. Several hours after the burglary, someone entered the home and raped the 72 year old owner. At trial the woman could not identify him but after the court made the defendant repeat something that the rapist had sad to her she testified that “it’s been six months. It’s hard but it [ his voice] sounds similar”. One of his co-defendants also testified against him but it is not clear from the Times’ story what exactly he testified to since he did not claim to have been present during the rape. Additionally, Mr. Sullivan’s attorney did not give an opening statement in the one day trial and his closing argument apparently lasted only a few minutes. The attorney was later disbarred and is still ineligible to practice in Florida. Biological evidence was recovered but was apparently destroyed prior to the advent of DNA evidence. The judge sentenced Mr. Sullivan to life without the possibility of parole and he has now served 20 years of that sentence. The Florida Court of Appeals just rejected a request to review the case and the case was appealed to the Supreme Court.
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