During the investigation, media rabble rousing, and trial portions of Baltimore
Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby’s Freddie Gray debacle there were several issues that initially received a great deal of attention, but eventually, quietly, went away. One was the issue of the illegal knife. Prosecutors made a great deal of noise about that, claiming the knife that formed the basis of Gray’s arrest was not illegal. They even went to far as to try to sabotage the ability of Baltimore officers to use Terry stops, claiming the officers had no grounds to pursue, catch, and detain Gray. They even tried to claim once the officers stopped and restrained Gray, they had no authority to move him a few feet, something any competent prosecutor would throw back in the face of any desperate defense attorney trying such a lame argument without any basis in law.
Those claims were idiotic nonsense. The knife was clearly illegal under Baltimore city ordinance, and even as they were trying to ignore it in the Gray case, prosecutors were charging other people with violations of the very same ordinance. Under Terry and related decisions, the officers clearly had grounds to do everything they did. Eventually, the prosecution quit raising the issues, and the media quit covering them.
Issues that would surely see the triumph of social justice just evaporated.
And then there were the officer’s cell phones. Those phones had so much promise. Surely the text messages they would contain would be smoking guns. Surely they’d show the officers actually, maliciously planned Freddie Gray’s death. Failing that, surely they’d show they tried to cover it up, or at the very least, they’d demonstrate they were evil, full of malice, racism and hatred.
Like all of the other specious prosecution arguments, these fond social justice hopes evaporated. The phones played no role in the trials, and any mention of them went quietly away. Now we know why, as The Baltimore Sun reports:
It was the day after Freddie Gray’s death from injuries suffered in Baltimore Police custody, and Officer Zach Novak — who was involved but never charged in Gray’s arrest — responded to a text message from another officer about how he was holding up by expressing concern for a third colleague, Officer Edward Nero.
Notice, gentle readers, the prophetic quality of their messages. These were not callous, hateful cops, but men concerned about not only about their own fates, but the police department and the community.
I’m good. Nero’s a wreck,’ Novak wrote. ‘They put him and 3 others on admin leave until further notice. He’s beating himself up over it even though he and nobody else did anything. [There] was literally no force at all involved in the whole incident.’
A week later, on April 27, 2015, rioting did erupt and the city did burn, most notably in the West Baltimore neighborhood where Gray grew up and was arrested.
It was all unnecessary.
The text messages from Novak and other officers were included in thousands of pages of investigative case files released this week by the Baltimore Police Department in response to Public Information Act requests from several media outlets, including The Baltimore Sun. The files include statements from witnesses, lists and descriptions of evidence, Gray’s criminal history and autopsy, DNA and serology reports from blood stains in the van, court records, investigators notes and hundreds of photographs.
They also include documents showing that investigators searched several phones, including some belonging to the officers charged in the case, but struggled to gain permission to search others, which they would later blame on a lack of police cooperation getting warrants.
This assertion is nonsense as well. If prosecutors had anything approaching probable cause to seize and search officer’s phones, they could surely have found a cooperative judge in Baltimore. They certainly knew how to prepare applications for search warrants. Thankfully, the rule of law held, and they weren’t allowed to seize private property just because they wanted to.
The text messages from Novak’s cell phone were gathered not with a warrant, but as the result of a deal prosecutors struck with Novak, in which they offered him immunity in exchange for his cooperation. [skip]
Investigators recovered a large number of messages, including chats between Novak and other uninvolved officers, friends and family, and messages that appeared to have been deleted.
They also recovered what appeared to be an ongoing group chat of saved and deleted messages between Novak and several of the officers who were charged criminally in the case — Nero, Officer Garrett Miller and Officer William Porter.
The Sun notes the phone information was not used in the criminal or departmental trials, but characterized it generally:
The officers worried about the safety of their families, talked about arming themselves, discussed requests from investigators that they provide statements, mentioned efforts by friends to raise money on their behalf, and gathered for meals together, according to the records. They also criticized Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby — and Prince, when the now-dead singer brought Mosby on stage at a benefit concert for the city in early May 2015.
The officers discussed why Donta Allen, the other man in the police van with Gray, would change his story in the press and fear for his own safety. And they devoured media coverage of the case and the rioting, sharing links with one another, criticizing the coverage — including some in The Baltimore Sun — and sometimes expressing shock or detached frustration at what was being reported.
The texts also indicate a vain hope the truth and fact would be sufficient to protect them. This was, eventually, the case, but only after a very long and costly ordeal, not only for the officers, but for the city and it’s poorest residents.
Pepper spray deployed,’ wrote Miller, one of the bike officers who arrested Gray, shortly before 4 p.m. on April 27, 2015, the afternoon the city descended into rioting and looting.
‘I am extremely afraid that someone’s decision of us will be based on what’s going on,’ wrote Nero, another of the bike officers who arrested Gray.
Nero was referring to the rioting and lynch mob mentality, not only among the public, but in the prosecutor’s office and City Hall. He had good reason to be concerned.
In the heat of the rioting, the officers were focused on the city. They wanted to be out responding to the chaos with their fellow officers.
Close to midnight on April 27, 2015, Nero wrote the rioting was ‘a tragedy. We hope this all stops.
Two days later, Miller wrote that a city councilman was saying on Fox News that there was ‘no way Gray broke his own neck,’ a reference to Gray’s injuries in police custody, which included fractured vertebrae and a nearly-severed spinal cord.
‘I guess he’s a doctor part time,’ Porter quipped.
The next day, on April 30, Nero mentioned another news report suggesting Gray had caused his own injuries.
‘This literally is a roller coaster of emotions. One second, the world is collapsing on us. The next, we get something like this that gives us hope,’ he wrote.
‘I’m gonna puke if I’m on this ride any longer,’ Miller replied.
‘I’m already sick to my stomach literally with all this,’ Nero wrote. ‘I’m not healthy mentally or physically with all this going on.’
On May 1, Miller again texted the group.
‘Well we all are f—ed,’ he wrote.
Miller: ‘We are all being arrested.
That day, Mosby stood on the steps of the War Memorial and announced charges against the six officers. People in the crowd before her, and residents throughout the West Baltimore neighborhood where Gray had been arrested, cheered and whistled. The police union called it a ‘rush to judgment.
Even then the officers weren’t focused solely on themselves:
These texts, incomplete though they are, reveal the officers as dedicated public servants, genuinely concerned for the welfare of their community. They are all back on the job, but none of them in direct contact with the public. That remains far too dangerous for them, and for their fellow officers. Just one more example of the damage social justice always causes, inevitably to those it claims to support. Thanks to Marilyn Mosby, Democrat Baltimore politicians, the progressive media and a rush to social justice, Baltimore may never fully recover from the damage.