Baltimore_Police_Department_logo_patchA six-year Baltimore City police officer who married a gang leader while he was in prison has lost her appeal to get her job back. Meredith Cross, who moved to Baltimore from New York to be closer to Carlito Cabana, a member of Dead Man, Inc. gang then serving a 30-year sentence in Maryland for second-degree murder, argued that she was fired in violation of her "constitutional right to marry and to engage in intimate association." According to the decision by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals released yesterday afternoon, Cross was a financial advisor working for American Express when she first wrote to Cabana in 2002. By 2004 she had fallen in love with him and moved to Baltimore, the decision says, where she applied to the Baltimore Police Department. When an interviewer asked if she knew anyone in prison, she mentioned her brother, a friend's husband, and Cabana, who she described as a "friend." Cross visited Cabana in prison and in 2004 exchanged vows him in an unofficial ceremony she later described as "a little ceremony [as] part of some Muslim thing [Cabana] was involved in," according to the court decision, which adds: "From that point on, appellant considered herself married to Cabana." She identified herself to prison officials thereafter as his wife, the decision says. She visited him 26 times between March of 2008 and June of 2009, the decision says. She also spoke to him at least once a day, on average, including while on duty and answering calls as a police officer. Her formal marriage ceremony occurred in April of 2009. Then she did something odd. "In May 2009, appellant, while visiting Cabana at North Branch Correctional Institution (hereinafter "NBCI") in Cumberland, used the identification of another person to gain entrance," the court opinion says. "When questioned about this identification by an NBCI staff member, appellant informed prison officials that she was a police officer in Baltimore City, and stated that she must have accidentally used the identification of a person whom she previously arrested." That set off the investigation as Lt. Damon Thomas, a prison intelligence officer, called Baltimore City Police Internal Affairs to report that one of the city's cops was married to a gang member. By this time Cabana was the "Supreme Commander" of the DMI gang at Western Correctional Institution, Cumberland, according to Thomas: "the one who runs the daily organization of the gang, of the inmates that are housed inside the facility," as the court decision quotes him. In July of 2009 the department served notice that Cross was accused of misconduct. The formal charges followed nine months later, in March of 2010: Conduct unbecoming an officer, personal contact with a person of questionable character, failure to "perform her duties and assume the responsibilities of her position," and failure to tell her superior officers that she was married. In December of 2010, she was formally terminated. Cross disputed the evidence linking Cabana to a prison gang, the decision says. She testified that Cabana "was never associating with a gang while he was with me" and called the assertions of his DMI membership "speculation." "However," the decision says, "on September 21, 2009, appellant, during an interview with Detective Cheung regarding her relationship with Cabana, conceded that Cabana ‘probably was' a member of a gang." There was no evidence that Cross helped Cabana in his gang activities or gave him any information that only a cop would have. "Three of appellant's co-workers, including her immediate supervisor, testified that appellant was a good cop and that they had no concerns about her relationship with Cabana," the decision says. The potential conflict of interest was brought at the hearing in Circuit Court, July, 2011:
Mr. [Michael E.] Davey [Cross's lawyer]: Our argument as stated in my brief basically relates to we believe that that policy itself is a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendment which restricting her – the department has restricted her from her ability to have this freedom of association with an individual. The Court: I guess how – the department didn't stop her from marrying him, she's married to him and she can stay married to him. Mr. Davey: Understood, but we also believe that the department should not terminate her simply because of that marriage, and that's what – The Court: And show me what says that a high ranking gang member who's convicted of 30 – who has a 30 – who's serving 30 years for second-degree murder should be married to a police officer who is going to be charged with investigating other members of Dead Man, Inc.? Mr. Davey: I would only argue that the record – The Court: When all of her conversations with him are going to be confidential, be covered by the marital privilege.
The Court of Special Appeals found that, because it did not order her to divorce Cabana, but merely terminated her employment, the Police Department did not violate Cross's right to marry whom she chose. It merely exercised its own right not to employ a person who is married to a gang member.