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Professor: Charges for federal crimes in Gray case unlikely

The U.S. Department of Justice was invited to examine the practices of the Baltimore Police Department late year. Federal agents were called after the city paid numerous legal settlements in cases of alleged police misconduct, like wrongful arrests and the unreasonable use of force.

That investigation was underway in April when people in Maryland and across the country became familiar with Freddie Gray.

Gray was in Baltimore police custody when he suffered what would turn out to be a fatal injury to his spine. The state's attorney for Baltimore recently claimed the officers, who placed the bound and shackled prisoner in a police van without safety restraints, were responsible for the man's death.

Around the same time, the DOJ opened a second investigation over possible criminal wrongdoing within the police department the agency was helping to reform.

A law professor at the University of Baltimore believes it's not likely the Justice Department investigation into Freddie Gray's death will result in prosecutions for criminal civil rights violations. The professor thinks it would be very difficult for prosecutors to prove the arrest was racially motivated. However, a criminal civil rights action might be strengthened if separate police charges of false imprisonment or false arrest are shown to be true.

The Freddie Gray story includes plentiful allegations and defendants at every turn. The Baltimore state's attorney accused the officers of crimes and disputed results of an internal police investigation. In a recent Business Insider report, the police department claimed Gray was carrying an illegal weapon -- a knife -- at the time of his arrest, which, if true, would lend support to the officers' version of events.

All criminal defendants have rights, including individuals charged with violating the rights of others. A criminal defense attorney helps to protect a defendant's civil rights while attempting to weaken or erase the charges against the accused person.

Source: WBAL-TV, "Federal civil rights investigations rarely lead to prosecutions," David Collins, May. 05, 2015

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