Baltimore to pay about $8M in police corruption settlement

BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore officials are set to approve a roughly $8 million settlement to two men who went to prison after drugs were planted on them a decade ago during an encounter with members of a rogue police unit that brutalized, robbed and falsely arrested residents.

The city’s spending board is scheduled to take up the settlement Wednesday, news outlets reported. The Board of Estimates has approved several settlements in recent weeks stemming from the misconduct of members of the Gun Trace Task Force, a once-lauded group that was supposed to take guns off the streets of Baltimore.

The settlement for Umar Burley and Brent Matthews is the largest settlement in connection with the task force and surpasses the amount paid in 2015 to the family of Freddie Gray, a young Black man who died a week after he was critically injured in police custody and whose death lead to civil unrest.

The proposed payment includes $6.3 million for Burley and Matthews as well as $1.8 million to pay off a lien due to the estate of Elbert Davis, which sued Burley. Burley and Matthews encountered task force members in 2010 during an illegal traffic stop that led to a high-speed chase. Burley crashed with another vehicle, killing Davis.

Burley spent seven years in prison, while Matthews served two-and-half years behind bars. Their convictions were vacated in 2017 after officers cooperating in the federal investigation into the task force told authorities that a member of the unit had spoken of drugs being planted in the incident.

“Mr. Burley and Mr. Matthews were overtly and undeniably framed by a conspiracy of at least four police officers,” the men’s attorneys, Steve Silverman, said in a statement. “It should not take an army of lawyers litigating for years to right wrongs like this.”

The investigation into the task force has led to the convictions of more than a dozen officers. Hundreds of criminal cases based on their work have been dropped or vacated.

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