BALTIMORE — Attorneys for Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray filed court papers Friday arguing that the city’s top prosecutor should be removed from the high-profile case because of conflicts of interest.
The broad attack on State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s credibility takes shots at her personal and professional life, alleging in more than 100 pages that she has a close relationship with the Gray family’s attorney and that her husband’s job as a City Council member from the district where Gray was arrested clouded her judgment.
“Rarely in the history of any criminal case has a prosecutor so directly maintained so many conflicts of interest,” the attorneys wrote in their motion that was filed at the close of business Friday in District Court.
Officials at Mosby’s office could not immediately be reached for comment, but she previously said in a statement that she refused “to litigate this case through the media.”
Council member Nick Mosby (D) also could not be reached for comment Friday. He has said in the past said that he and his wife do not have a conflict in their respective roles as elected officials. The Gray family attorney, William H. “Billy” Murphy, also did not return calls.
The filing is an indication that the defense is mounting an early and aggressive bid to preempt the charges even before the officers are indicted and the case is moved to Circuit Court. Rarely are such motions filed at the District Court level.
Mosby (D) announced the charges against the officers at a May 1 news conference broadcast across the country. The speech surprised police and the public, but it also brought relief, turning anger that had erupted in riots and looting a few days earlier into a day of celebration.
Gray, 25, died April 19, a week after he had been arrested and suffered a spinal injury that prosecutors said occurred inside a police transport van. His death roiled the city amid a national conversation over police conduct.
In announcing the criminal charges, Mosby told residents, “I heard your call for no justice, no peace. To the youth of this city, I will seek justice on your behalf. . . . You are at the forefront of this cause, and as young people our time is now.”
The motion filed Friday calls those statements proof of her bias. The defense also questioned Mosby’s conclusion that a folding knife Gray carried is legal, and that he never should have been arrested. The officers contend the type of knife Gray had was an illegal switchblade as defined by city code.
In the motion, the defense argues that Mosby’s husband had a “personal interest in the need to eliminate the rioting,” and that she had an interest in “accommodating the needs of her husband.”
The motion, which has not been ruled on, describes Murphy, the Gray family lawyer, as a “close friend, financial supporter and attorney for Mrs. Mosby.”
It notes that Murphy served on Mosby’s transition team after she was elected and represented her before an attorney grievance commission last year. Mosby was accused of violating rules of professional conduct by saying during her campaign for state’s attorney that someone had committed a crime based solely on news accounts. The commission took no action against her.
Attorneys also argue that Mosby, on her first day in office, dropped criminal charges against one of two Baltimore police officers accused of killing a dog after it bit a pregnant woman. The officer her office cleared was represented by Murphy. His action of lassoing the dog was ruled the likely cause of death, according to the motion. The other officer had slit the dog’s throat.
The defense team also focused on statements made by a prisoner who was in the van with Gray. According to a search-warrant application, the man told police that he heard Gray banging against the walls and thought Gray was trying to hurt himself. That sealed court document was first reported on by the The Washington Post.
Two television reporters and The Post later interviewed the man, identified as Donta Allen.
The defense said that when a local television reporter aired the first interview with Allen, his “story had changed” and he said he heard “light banging” and never thought Gray attempted to harm himself.
That reporter, from WBAL-TV, is in a personal relationship with Mosby’s deputy in the state’s attorney’s office, according to the motion. Lawyers for the officers called this a conflict and threatened to call the television reporter as a key witness regarding Allen’s statements.
The reporter later indicated in a radio interview that she would take a reduced role in covering the case.
“The story that Mr. Allen told this reporter is key to the defense of this case and is substantively different in certain respects from the story that he told the original police investigators,” attorneys said in the motion.
Allen later provided a similar account to The Post. In a phone interview, Allen said he had been in the van with Gray and told police he heard “light banging.” He said the police report incorrectly characterized his statements to authorities and that he “never ever said to police that [Gray] was hurting himself.”