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Six Baltimore Police Officers Face Criminal Charges In Freddie Gray’s Death

By Timothy M. Phelps and Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

BALTIMORE — All six Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest and transport of Freddie Gray, who was fatally injured while in police custody, will face serious criminal charges ranging from second-degree murder to assault, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby said on Friday.

At a news conference, Mosby announced that Gray’s death was officially ruled a homicide and that the investigation by city police and her office had found probable cause to charge all six officers.

Arrest warrants have been issued for the officers, she said.

Mosby also spoke directly to the protesters who have marched in riot-scarred Baltimore and around the nation.

“I heard your call for no justice, no peace,” Mosby said, “but your peace is sincerely needed as I work to bring justice for Freddie Gray.”

Gray died on April 19, a week after he was arrested by Baltimore police. Gray, hands cuffed behind him, was placed in a police van to be taken to the precinct where he was expected to be charged with illegally possessing a knife, according to charging papers released by police weeks ago.

On Friday Mosby said the initial arrest lacked probable cause. The knife was not a switchblade and was legal under Maryland law.

Mosby also detailed how Gray was transported in a police van that stopped four times.

Gray was not secured in a seat belt during the trip and was repeatedly refused medical care, she said.

Mosby’s announcement came more than two weeks after Gray’s death, which roiled the city and touched off demonstrations that escalated in violence. Rioting, fires and looting erupted in west Baltimore Monday night after Gray’s funeral and hundreds were arrested.

Officials regained control by imposing a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and sending in thousands of National Guard troops and police officers from municipalities throughout the region.

Protesters and community leaders have demanded to know what happened to Gray during the 45 minutes from when he was taken into custody on April 12 to when he arrived at the police precinct and how his spine was severed.

“Mr. Gray’s death was a homicide,” Mosby declared, after formally receiving a police investigation on Thursday that supplemented her office’s work throughout the crisis. The final autopsy report on Gray’s death was delivered to the prosecutor Friday morning.

Gray’s arrest was illegal and the way he was treated by officers led to the charges of murder and manslaughter, Mosby said.

The most serious charge was second-degree “depraved heart” murder lodged against the driver of the van.

Three other officers face charges of involuntary manslaughter and two were charged with assault.

The top charge carries a penalty of 30 years in prison if convicted. Conviction on the manslaughter charges carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

“No one is above the law,” Mosby said at a news conference.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Baltimore Police Give Findings Into Freddie Gray Death To Prosecutor

By Timothy M. Phelps and Michael Muskal, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

BALTIMORE — Baltimore police turned over their findings into the death of Freddie Gray to the state prosecutor on Thursday, a day earlier than their self-imposed deadline.

The results of the investigation were sent to State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby on Thursday morning, Police Commissioner Anthony Batts announced.

“We have exhausted every lead at this point. But this does not mean the investigation is over,” he said.

The action comes amid published reports of a new narrative suggesting that Gray intentionally tried to injure himself as he was being transported in a police van.

The 25-year-old African-American died from a severed spine on April 19, a week after he was arrested by Baltimore police and transported by van. Police are investigating how Gray, who was cuffed with his hands behind his back and his legs in irons, was injured.

The police findings into the death, which has led to days of protests and a fevered Monday night of rioting and looting, were scheduled to be completed by Friday, but were completed early.

The state’s attorney has the final say on whether to charge any of the six officers with a state crime. The officers have been suspended with pay.

“By turning these documents, our findings, over to the state’s attorney’s office as quickly as we can, we are being accountable to them so that we can be accountable to the public,” spokesman Captain Eric Kowalczyk said Wednesday.

Police have already acknowledged that department policy was breached when Gray was placed in the van but not buckled into a seat belt and when officers failed to get him medical care in a timely fashion. The federal Justice Department is also investigating whether there were any violations of federal civil rights law.

Police have said that the van stopped three times while carrying Gray to a police precinct. At one stop, Gray was taken from the van and placed in irons. At the last stop, another inmate was also placed in the van but was separated from Gray by a metal barrier.

According to The Washington Post, the prisoner sharing the police van told investigators that he could hear Gray “banging against the walls” of the vehicle and believed that he “was intentionally trying to injure himself.”

The Post quoted from what it said was a Baltimore police document that was included in an application for a search warrant, which is sealed by the court. The Post said it was given the document under the condition that the prisoner not be named because the person who provided it feared for the inmate’s safety.

The document offers the first official look at what happened in the van. Baltimore police have said they do not know whether Gray was injured during the arrest or during his ride in the van.

Gray was found unconscious in the wagon when it arrived at a police station on April 12, then taken to a hospital, where he died in a coma a week later.

Jason Downs, one of the attorneys for the Gray family, told the Post that the family had not been told of the prisoner’s comments to investigators.

“We disagree with any implication that Freddie Gray severed his own spinal cord,” Downs said. “We question the accuracy of the police reports we’ve seen thus far, including the police report that says Mr. Gray was arrested without force or incident.”

Photo: Vladimir Badikov via Flickr

Federal Judge Rules Government Violated Rights Of 13 On No-Fly List

By Timothy M. Phelps and Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — An Oregon federal judge ruled Tuesday that international air travel is a “sacred” liberty protected by the U.S. Constitution and ordered the government to amend its rules governing the so-called no-fly list, which seeks to prevent suspected terrorists from boarding airlines.

In the first such ruling of its kind, U.S. District Judge Anna J. Brown in Portland said “international travel is not a mere convenience or luxury in this modern world. Indeed, for many, international travel is a necessary aspect of liberties sacred to members of a free society.”

Therefore, she said, the government must change its procedures to allow U.S. citizens who find themselves on the no-fly list to challenge the designation.

She ordered the government to come up with new procedures that protect citizens’ due-process rights without jeopardizing national security. Passengers must be given notice of their inclusion on the list and a rationale for the designation and be allowed to submit evidence to challenge it, Brown said.

Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said government lawyers were reviewing the decision, and declined to comment further.

Previously the government has argued that because other modes of travel on land and sea are available, there is no right to travel by air and no need to change the no-fly list procedures.

“Such an argument ignores the numerous reasons that an individual may have for wanting or needing to travel overseas quickly, such as the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, a business opportunity or a religious obligation,” Brown wrote. “A prohibition on flying turns routine international travel into an odyssey that imposes significant logistical, economic and physical demands on travelers.”

Federal investigators currently may include someone on the no-fly list based on a “reasonable suspicion” that an individual is a known or suspected terrorist. They do not routinely tell would-be passengers they are on the list or give any factual reason for the designation. The list, established after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, includes about 20,000 names, about 500 of them U.S. citizens.

A person who is denied the right to fly can challenge such a designation with the Department of Homeland Security. If the agency determines the inclusion is appropriate, the individual may seek to overturn the decision in federal court. The court reviews the government’s rationale but does not share the information with the concerned individual.

U.S. officials say the list is necessary to prevent hijackings and terrorist attacks. But Brown ruled that the current DHS redress process had a high risk of depriving some innocent individuals of their “protected interests.”

In the lawsuit, 13 Muslim American plaintiffs, four of them veterans of the U.S. military, denied having any links to terrorism and said they learned of their no-fly status when they arrived at an airport and were blocked from boarding a plane.

The national ACLU, along with its affiliates in Oregon, California and New Mexico, filed the lawsuit in June 2010. It was dismissed by the District Court, but in July 2012, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the dismissal on jurisdictional grounds, allowing the lower court to consider the case.

One of the plaintiffs is Stephen D. Persaud of Irvine, Calif., who in 2010 was not allowed to fly home from the Virgin Islands unless he cooperated by giving information to an FBI agent. He eventually returned home by boat and train for the birth of his second child, but says he cannot fly to Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage made by Muslims.

Another plaintiff is Raymond E. Knaeble IV, an army veteran from Chicago, who was barred from flying home in 2010 after flying to Bogota, Colombia, to marry his wife. He says he lost a job offer as a result. He eventually returned to the U.S. in a 12-day journey from Colombia to Panama City to California.

Sheik Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye, imam of Portland’s largest mosque, is also a plaintiff.

“Finally I will be able to challenge whatever incorrect information the government has been using to stigmatize me and keep me from flying,” Kariye said in a statement. “I have been prevented by the government from traveling to visit my family members and fulfill religious obligations for years, and it has had a devastating impact on all of us.”

Shyb via Flickr