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The Dripby Mark Reutter4:25 pmJan 20, 20210

City can’t recoup damages caused by police officer’s perjury

“This is a gross imbalance of what government stands for,” says City Council President Nick Mosby

Above: Former Baltimore Police Officer Michael O’Sullivan. (BPD)

Two members of the Board of Estimates expressed frustration today when they heard that the city could not revoke the pension or otherwise seek damages against a police officer whose lying under oath resulted in taxpayers footing a $100,000 bill.

“Right now, an officer could hurt me, steal, maim, kill . . . and still keep their pension?” asked Council President Nick Mosby.

“Yes, Mr. President, that is the state of affairs,” replied Elizabeth Walden, chief legal counsel for Baltimore Police.

Walden said the city’s contract with the Fraternal Order of Police and the state’s Local Government Tort Claims Act indemnify police even when they engage “in bad conduct.”

The issue came up as the spending board approved a $100,000 cash settlement with Yusuf Smith, who was jailed based on false testimony from former police officer Michael O’Sullivan.

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O’Sullivan arrested Smith in 2018, saying he had witnessed the 23-year-old reach for his waistline and toss a gun, which was later found on the ground.

Smith was charged with a weapons violation. During a District Court bench trial, O’Sullivan repeated the claim under oath, and Smith was convicted.

It was soon discovered from body camera footage that Officer O’Sullivan could not have seen what he testified to under oath. By the time Smith’s conviction was overturned and all charges dismissed, he had spent 70 days in City Jail.

The board today awarded $100,000 to Smith to end his lawsuit alleging wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution.

Discussing the outlay, Mosby and Comptroller Bill Henry said the city should be able to recoup some of those funds from O’Sullivan, who resigned from the force after he was found guilty of perjury and misconduct in office.

“This is a gross imbalance of what government stands for,” Mosby complained, while Henry urged Mayor Brandon Scott to work with the City Council and the General Assembly “for a legislative remedy going forward.”

Scott did not address the issue. He and City Solicitor James L. Shea voted to approve the payment along with Mosby, Henry and Acting Public Works Director Matthew Garbark.

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