FBI's release of confidential memo about BGF targeting 'white cops' becomes issue in Baltimore gang trial

City Paper

Buried in Justin Fenton’s article in The Baltimore Sun on Dec. 20 about the killings of two New York City police officers, reportedly by a man who had shot his girlfriend in the Baltimore suburbs earlier that day, is a paragraph that two days later became a live issue in the ongoing Baltimore racketeering trial of the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) prison gang and its correctional-officer co-conspirators.

“On Friday, the Baltimore FBI office issued a memo that the Black Guerrilla Family gang was targeting ‘white cops’ in Maryland, an agency spokeswoman confirmed,” Fenton’s piece says. “The memo, circulating among officers, said a contact who had given reliable information in the past said members of the gang—connected to the high-profile corruption scandal at the Baltimore City Detention Center—were planning to target white officers to send a message.’”

On the morning of Monday, Dec. 22, Maryland U.S. District Court, BGF defendant Joseph Young’s attorney, Richard Bardos, filed a motion asking for a hearing over whether the release of the FBI’s confidential memo violated rules of the court governing attorneys’ release of information and thereby undermined a fair trial in the case.

While Bardos wrote that he “agrees that the FBI, or any law enforcement agency, can and should issue warning memos to other law enforcement agencies for their protection and the safety of the public,” he argues that “such legitimate goals are not served by the dissemination of that memo, or even confirming the content of the memo, to the media. Such are two distinctly different activities, the latter of which bears the potential for influencing the present jury and disrupting this trial, particularly when the disclosure to the media is made by the very branch of the FBI that is involved in the case before the Court.”

Though Bardos incorrectly cites the New York Daily News as publishing the information, he writes that “the news report indicates that not only was a confidential report issued from the [FBI’s] Baltimore Office, the mention alone must draw attention to this trial in Baltimore, but that there was an ongoing use of an informant. The suggestion from the current contact is that even though these 8 people are on trial, the FBI in Baltimore still needs to investigate these alleged criminals.”

Bardos adds that while “there is no evidence to indicate that” the prosecutors on the case, Robert Harding and Ayn Ducao, “authorized or directed that this memo be given to the press, the Government is responsible for the actions of its agents” and is “in this case is partnered with the FBI” and so “is even more intimately responsible for the Baltimore FBI’s actions.”

“There is no question that the dissemination of information by the Baltimore FBI (a presumably credible source in the eyes of the public) about the BGF (on trial here) threatening to shoot police officers has the potential to disrupt the fair trial of these defendants,” Bardos continues, adding that the court rules prohibit “any and all statements to the media so that all possible prejudice can be avoided.” He asks for “an evidentiary hearing . . . to determine whether and by whom the Rules were violated and, if so, whether these defendants can continue to receive a fair trial in this District.”

The reported killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, fatally shot two on-duty New York police officers, Wenjin Liu and Rafael Ramos, the day after the FBI released the BGF memo. Brinsley then shot and killed himself. Earlier in December, the New York Daily News reported an earlier warning, which was quickly discredited by New York police brass, that the BGF was going to target cops. Fenton and others have also reported that law enforcers have no indication that Brinsley had any ties to the BGF or any organized group.

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