Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Law Professor Calls for Baltimore State's Attorney Mosby Disbarment Over Prosecution in Freddie Gray Case
John F. Banzhaf III, a public interest law professor at the George Washington University Law School has called for Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby to be disbarred over her prosecution of six city police officers in the Freddie Gray case.

Kevin Rector
The Baltimore Sun

An activist law professor with a penchant for filing high-profile lawsuits has called for Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby to be disbarred over her prosecution of six city police officers in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.

John F. Banzhaf III, a public interest law professor at George Washington University, said he intended to mail a full complaint against Mosby to the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission on Wednesday.

In the written complaint, obtained by The Baltimore Sun, Banzhaf calls Mosby a "runaway prosecutor" who has violated ethics rules governing the conduct of attorneys in Maryland at almost every turn in the case — from the moment she announced the charges against the officers in May 2015 to this week, when her office signaled it would continue pursuing cases against the officers who still face charges after the full acquittal of two other officers.

Mosby never had the evidence to charge the officers, Banzhaf argues, and should have re-evaluated her belief that she did following the acquittal of Officers Edward Nero and Caesar Goodson Jr.

The trial of a third officer, William Porter, ended in a mistrial when a jury could not reach a consensus on any of the charges against him.

Porter is one of four officers still facing charges. All have pleaded not guilty.

Banzhaf points to what he says are missteps by the prosecution that have also been noted in court by the officers' defense attorneys and by Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams. They include Mosby's public comments the day the charges were announced and the prosecution's violation of rules governing the disclosure of evidence.

Mosby's office released a statement Wednesday noting that Mosby and other prosecutors are barred by a gag order imposed by Williams from discussing the officers' prosecution, and must therefore withhold comment on Banzhaf's related grievance.

"The State's Attorney will continue to respect the judge's orders as our office has consistently done throughout these trials," the office said.

The Attorney Grievance Commission does not comment on pending complaints.

Gray, 25, died last year after suffering severe spinal cord and other neck injuries in the back of a police van. His death sparked widespread protests against police brutality. On the day he was buried, the city erupted in riots, looting and arson.

Mosby's decision to charge the officers drew international attention.

Banzhaf said in an interview Wednesday morning that he has no connection to the cases and has not been in touch with the prosecution or any of the officers' defense teams.

He also said he has "no particular political ax to grind, certainly not in Maryland," but decided to get involved in the case because Mosby "has gone too far" and her actions "are causing many problems for the city of Baltimore."

Local attorneys, Banzhaf said, are often reluctant to lodge such complaints for fear their involvement would jeopardize their representation of local clients — making it even more important for outsiders with legal expertise to step in.

"I get involved in lots of different public-interest actions because I think they are important and I think it's a more effective use of my time than writing law review articles," he said.

He said he believes that there are already grounds for Mosby's disbarment but that his case will be strengthened if Mosby continues to prosecute the officers still facing trial.

The next trial, of Lt. Brian Rice, is scheduled to begin with a pretrial motions hearing Tuesday.

Banzhaf has weighed in on other high-profile cases. In the 1980s, he had a hand in prompting the case that resulted in a Maryland judge ruling that Spiro T. Agnew had taken thousands of dollars in bribes from contractors while Maryland's governor and then vice president.

Banzhaf also got involved in the failed prosecution of three Duke University lacrosse players in 2006 on rape and sexual assault charges — a case that led to the disbarment of the district attorney there.

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