BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A. Dwight Pettit has brought misconduct lawsuits against Baltimore police for more than four decades, but the scope of corruption on the Gun Trace Task Force was larger than he had ever seen. Now, one of his clients, Robert Johnson, has settled with the city for $525,000 after he says he was wrongly imprisoned for four years.
Baltimore City’s spending board unanimously approved the settlement, which comes two years after Johnson sued the city and several former police commissioners. He alleged top brass knew about the corruption but turned a blind eye to it.READ MORE: 2 Men Seeking $40 Million In Damages From Baltimore Police, State
— Mike Hellgren (@HellgrenWJZ) July 21, 2021
“He’s very, very happy that this is over,“ Pettit told WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren. “Just the fact of being incarcerated for four years for something that you did not do is a tremendous thing and he is just happy that he has some compensation even though it does not rectify what he’s been through. At least it’s some measure of justice so he can start his life over again.“
Johnson alleged officers Jemell Rayam and Momodu Gondo planted a gun on him and searched his vehicle without probable cause in 2014. He said he was pressured into taking a plea deal.
“We are going to do right by those who are unfortunately preyed upon by these individuals,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said this week. “We are going to continue to put things in place to make sure that these kinds of incidents do not happen again.“READ MORE: GTTF
Federal prosecutors said officers in the once-elite gun unit would target people who they believed would not report them, often robbing them of cash and drugs.
There have been 30 settlements involving the GTTF so far. The largest was $8 million paid to Umar Burley and Brent Matthews who were also wrongly imprisoned after GTTF officers planted drugs on them.
More from Umar Burley—who served almost 8 years in prison after Baltimore police planted heroin on him. He filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit against police, the state, and current and officers @wjz pic.twitter.com/RwS8kQqWQj
— Mike Hellgren (@HellgrenWJZ) June 13, 2018
“The citizens of Baltimore cannot afford to continue to pay these types of settlements. They’re inexcusable. They’re unacceptable,” said Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby.
“It has been very frustrating for a lot of people that the taxpayers are on the hook to defend officers who have already been convicted of serious crimes,“ Comptroller Bill Henry said during the spending board meeting Wednesday. He questions the city’s law department about how many more cases are outstanding. Deputy Chief Counsel Justin Conroy told Henry, “Some of these officers have not been arresting people since before they were indicted in February and March of 2017. It does stand to reason that hopefully a majority of [lawsuits] are behind us and we have every reason to think they are.”
Pettit told Hellgren he continues to receive calls from victims. There are currently four cases in active litigation.