Under the Dome

Butterfield criticizes police union chief for saying officers charged weren’t responsible for Freddie Gray’s death

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a North Carolina Democrat and the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, on Tuesday criticized Baltimore’s police union president for declaring that the six officers charged in the case weren’t responsible for the death of Freddie Gray.

“Reckless and irresponsible,” Butterfield said of the assertion by Gene Ryan, president of Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge No. 3. Ryan made it in an open letter on Friday to Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

“To the contrary,” Ryan added in that letter, “at all times, each of the officers diligently balanced their obligations to protect Mr. Gray and discharge their duties to protect the public.”

“You do not have the ability to make those determinations,” Butterfield, a former Superior Court judge and state Supreme Court associate justice from Wilson, said in an open letter of his own to Ryan. “It will be a jury verdict of Baltimoreans that will decide these cases after the parties present substantial evidence of guilt or innocence, not the Fraternal Order of Police.”

Mosby announced on Friday that the six officers faced criminal charges. Gray died of a spinal injury on April 12 after he was arrested. The Baltimore medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

Ryan last week also urged Mosby to remove herself from the case because of what he alleged were conflicts of interest, including what he said was her “personal and professional relationship” with the Gray family’s attorney, William Murphy, and the position of her husband, Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby. He also wrote that the lead prosecutor had “connections with members of the local media.”

“These frivolous and inflammatory statements are repugnant to any citizen with knowledge of our criminal justice system,” Butterfield wrote. The accusations are “nothing more than propaganda intended to interfere with the proper administration of justice,” the congressman added. “Undoubtedly, prospective jurors have read your letter which suggests that you could be trying to improperly influence public opinion in these cases.”

Butterfield asked Ryan to “reconsider your statements and make the necessary corrections.”