Washington v. Balt. Police Dep't

Decision Date06 May 2020
Docket NumberCivil Case No. SAG-19-2473
Citation457 F.Supp.3d 520
Parties Gary WASHINGTON, et al., Plaintiffs, v. BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland

Jon Loevy, Pro Hac Vice, Renee Spence, Pro Hac Vice, Roshna Bala Keen, Pro Hac Vice, Gayle Horn, Loevy and Loevy, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiffs.

Justin Sperance Conroy, Kara K. Lynch, Natalie Rose Amato, Baltimore City Department of Law, Baltimore, MD, for Defendants Baltimore Police Department, Mayor and the City Council of Baltimore.

Avi Kamionski, Shneur Zalman Nathan, Nathan & Kamionski LLP, Chicago, IL, Mayer Engelsberg, Theresa Concepcion, Nathan & Kamionski, Baltimore, MD, for Defendants Thomas Pellegrini, Oscar Requer, Richard Fahlteich, John Tewey, Fred Ceruti.


Stephanie A. Gallagher, United States District Judge On August 27, 2019, Plaintiff Gary Washington ("Plaintiff") filed a Complaint against Thomas Pellegrini ("Pellegrini"), Oscar Requer ("Requer"), Richard Fahlteich ("Fahlteich"), John Tewey ("Tewey"), Fred Ceruti ("Ceruti"), John MacGillivary ("MacGillivary"), and other Unknown Employees of the Baltimore Police Department (collectively, "the Officer Defendants"), as well as the Baltimore Police Department ("BPD"), and the Mayor & City Council of Baltimore ("MCC") (together, "Defendants"). ECF 1.1 Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on September 5, 2019. ECF 5. Each of the Officer Defendants, except for MacGillivary and the unknown Defendants, filed an Answer on December 2, 2019. ECF 28. Plaintiff, now fifty-eight years old, seeks awards of compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees, for the injuries he allegedly suffered stemming from his wrongful conviction over thirty-one years ago for the murder of Faheem Rafig Ali ("Ali"). Id.

Three motions are presently before the Court. First, on December 2, 2019, the BPD and MCC filed a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, ECF 29, along with a Memorandum of Law in support thereof, ECF 29-1 (collectively, "the Motion to Dismiss"). Plaintiff filed an Opposition, ECF 37, and the BPD and MCC replied, ECF 50. Further, on December 30, 2019, Plaintiff filed two motions: a Second Motion for Extension of Time to Serve Defendant MacGillivary, ECF 35 ("the Motion for Extension of Time"); and a Motion to Appoint a Personal Representative for Deceased Defendant MacGillivary, ECF 36 ("the Motion to Appoint"). Defendants Ceruti, Fahlteich, Pellegrini, Requer, and Tewey opposed, ECF 38, and Plaintiff replied, ECF 45. No hearing is necessary on any of the pending Motions. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons that follow, the BPD's Motion to Dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part, the MCC's Motion to Dismiss will be granted, and Plaintiff's two motions will be denied.


The following facts from the Amended Complaint are accepted as true, and all reasonable inferences are drawn in Plaintiffs’ favor. See, e.g. , E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc. , 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011). At all times relevant to the Amended Complaint, each Officer Defendant was employed as an officer with the BPD. ECF 5, ¶ 9.

A. Factual Background
1. Plaintiff's Wrongful Conviction, and Subsequent Exoneration

On December 27, 1986, at about 7:45 p.m., Ali was walking in the 2300 block of Barclay Street in Baltimore City, Maryland. Id. ¶ 12. He stopped and began speaking to two unidentified men. Id. A twelve-year-old boy, Otis Robinson ("Robinson"), was walking on the same street, and noticed the men, but found "nothing notable" about them, and continued walking. Id. ¶ 18. The conversation between Ali and the two men, however, "quickly escalated into an argument," and ended with one of the men fatally shooting Ali in the chest. Id. ¶ 12. The two men fled before police arrived. Id. ¶ 12. Robinson also fled after hearing the gun shot, and eventually took shelter in his mother's boyfriend's home. Id. ¶ 19. R.D., a thirteen-year-old girl, was standing in the crowd when police arrived on the scene. Id. ¶¶ 28-29. Some Officer Defendant(s) questioned her about the murder, but she said that she did not know who shot Ali. Id. ¶ 29. No other witness on the scene that night could identify either suspect. Id. ¶ 15.

Sometime after the shooting, unspecified Officer Defendant(s) learned that Robinson may have also witnessed the shooting. Id. ¶ 16. Those Defendant(s) went to Robinson's mother's house "and threatened to take Otis away from her if she did not bring Otis to the police station within 24 hours." Id. ¶ 19. On December 29, 1986, Robinson and his mother were transported to a BPD police station, where unspecified Officer Defendant(s) separated him from his mother. Id. ¶ 20. Robinson told Pellegrini and Fahlteich that, on the night of the shooting, he heard men talking on the street and then he heard a gunshot, but he did not know who any of the men were. Id. ¶ 21. Requer later brought showed Robinson a set of pictures, one of which was Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 22. Robinson confirmed that he recognized Plaintiff, but never indicated that Plaintiff was one of the two men he saw standing with Ali. Id.

Unspecified Officer Defendant(s) then began threatening Robinson, and demanding that he cooperate and identify the shooter, or else they would take him away from his mother, or worse, charge him with Ali's murder. Id. ¶ 23. Robinson then began accepting details that the unspecified Officer Defendants provided him about the shooting, and eventually, "[b]ecause of the Officer Defendants’ coercion," falsely identified Plaintiff as Ali's shooter. Id. After Robinson made this identification, he was reunited with his mother. Id. ¶ 23. Robinson later returned to the station, and signed a second typewritten statement identifying Plaintiff as the shooter, on January 2, 1987. Id. ¶ 25. The Officer Defendants are alleged to have known that Robinson's statements identifying Plaintiff as the shooter were false, but they did not disclose this fact, or Robinson's initial statement denying knowledge of the shooter's identity, to the prosecutor or Plaintiff's defense attorney. Id. ¶¶ 23, 26-27.

The Officer Defendants had R.D. come to the station on January 3, 1987, and implemented the same practices on her as they had on Robinson. Id. ¶¶ 30-31. After separating R.D. from her mother, unspecified Officer Defendants threatened R.D. that they would take her away from her mother, and even arrest her. Id. ¶ 30. They showed R.D. a picture of Plaintiff, and she indicated that she knew who he was. Id. ¶ 31. The Officer Defendant(s) pressured R.D. to sign her name next to the picture, and indicate that Plaintiff was the shooter. Id. R.D. agreed, and was then reunited with her mother. Id. The Officer Defendants did not disclose R.D.’s initial statement at the scene of the murder, or their acts of coercion, to the prosecutor or Plaintiff's defense attorney. Id. ¶ 33.

On January 5, 1987, "under the supervision of Defendant John MacGillivary," the Officer Defendants used Robinson's and R.D.’s fabricated statements to obtain an arrest warrant for Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 34. At a later suppression hearing, Pellegrini falsely testified that Robinson's and R.D.’s statements and identifications had been obtained freely and voluntarily. Id. ¶ 36. Robinson was the only one who testified at trial, and his testimony was the only evidence linking Plaintiff to Ali's murder. Id. ¶ 37. A jury convicted Plaintiff of Ali's murder on June 16, 1987, for which Plaintiff received a sentence of life imprisonment, plus twenty years. Id. ¶¶ 39-40.

Ten years later, Robinson recanted his testimony. Id. ¶ 41. He explained that the Officer Defendants had coerced him into making the false statements. Id. On August 20, 2018, a state court judge in Baltimore City granted Plaintiff's petition for a writ of actual innocence, deeming Robinson's recantation credible. Id. ¶ 42. The murder charges against Plaintiff were then dropped. Id. ¶ 43. Plaintiff has filed a number of claims against the Officer Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Maryland state law, for the violation of his constitutional rights stemming from his wrongful conviction. Id. ¶¶ 93-118, 124-38 (Counts I-IV, VI-VII). Plaintiff has also filed a claim against the BPD directly, seeking to compel it to indemnify the Officer Defendants upon a finding of the Officer Defendants’ liability. Id. ¶¶ 139-41 (Count IX).

2. The Monell Claim Against the BPD and MCC

As relevant to this Motion to Dismiss, Count V of the Amended Complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages from the BPD and MCC for the violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights, pursuant to § 1983 and the theory of liability espoused in Monell v. Department of Social Services , 436 U.S. 658, 690, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978). ECF 5, ¶¶ 119-23 (Count V). Plaintiff alleges that his wrongful conviction was "the result of the BPD's longstanding policies and practices of pursuing wrongful convictions through reliance on profoundly flawed investigations," which led investigators to "cut corners and rush[ ] to judgment" in "a race to clear murder cases." Id. ¶¶ 45-46. These policies, Plaintiff alleges, were "firmly entrenched" during the investigation of Ali's homicide. Id. ¶ 46. In support, Plaintiff recounts the wrongful murder convictions of Walter Lomax, Wendell Griffin, James Owens, Jerome Johnson, Anthony Coleman, Sabein Burgess, Antoine Pettiford, Rodney Addison, Malcolm Bryant, Kenneth McPherson, Eric Simmons, Tyrone Jones, and Garreth Parks, many of whom have been exonerated. Id. ¶¶ 49-60. In each case, the BPD allegedly relied on fabricated evidence, coerced child witnesses to make false statements, and/or failed to disclose exculpatory evidence, in order to secure the individual's conviction. Id. Plaintiff alleges that policymakers within the BPD were deliberately different to these unconstitutional practices, and that the failure to remedy them led...

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