Saying that the city will avoid protracted and "divisive" litigation, and that the money will be paid from unrelated lawsuits that the city has won, the Board of Estimates unanimously approved a $6.4 million settlement with the mother and father of Freddie C. Gray, the 25-year-old African-American man who died after he was arrested by police in April.
Deputy City Solicitor David E. Ralph presented the case for settlement briefly before the vote, saying that "on behalf of the settlement committee" he recommended the payment to Freddie Gray Sr. and Gloria Darden. The family's claim—which had not yet been filed in court—would not have been subject to the $400,000 cap on compensation in state cases, Ralph explained, but was more comparable to a 1997 case in which a jury awarded $39 million to a person who was killed by a rough ride in a police van, or a 2005 case in which another man was paralyzed in a similar circumstance. The settlement, he and others stressed, "expressly does not constitute an admission of liability or guilt."
City Solicitor George Nilson said after the vote that Baltimore is a plaintiff in three cases in which it expects to win settlements that will more than pay for the settlement to Gray. One is a class action against Wall Street banks for allegedly manipulating derivatives. That case settled recently, Nilson said, although the exact amount of the award is still to be decided.
He said there are two other cases, which he declined to identify, that would yield the city millions of dollars.
On the way out of the hearing room, Kim Trueheart, a longtime City Hall watcher, asked Nilson how much the Gray family had demanded. Nilson declined to answer, saying the negotiations were confidential. "They asked for a lot more than we gave them," he said. "Put it that way."