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Baltimore Reaches $6.4M Wrongful Death Settlement With Freddie Gray's Family

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Nearly $6.4 million. That's how much the city plans to pay Freddie Gray's family in a civil settlement. Gray's death in April sparked a wave of police protests and rioting.

Christie Ileto looks at how this big payout could impact a key hearing on Thursday.

The settlement comes 48 hours before a judge will determine if the October trial will be moved out of Baltimore. The question is—will this play a role?

Freddie Gray's April arrest has the city paying—literally—for what happened when cell phone cameras weren't rolling.

A proposed 6.4 million taxpayer dollars will go to the 25-year-old's family after he died from injuries he got while in police custody. They'll pay $2.8 million this year, and $3.6 million next year.

The mayor says this settlement means no admission of guilt:

"The proposed settlement agreement going before the Board of Estimates should not be interpreted as a judgment on the guilt or innocence of the officers facing trial. This settlement is being proposed solely because it is in the best interest of the city, and avoids costly and protracted litigation that would only make it more difficult for our city to heal and potentially cost taxpayers many millions more in damages."

Doug Colbert is a University of Maryland law professor.

Ileto: "Do you think it could impact having the case moved out of the city?"

Colbert: "I think there's going to be mention of it, but I don't believe that's going to influence the court."

But the police union says settling before the trial is obscene:

"It is with a tremendous amount of concern and alarm that we react to today's news of the proposed wrongful death settlement between the City of Baltimore and the family of Freddie [Gray]. To suggest that there is any reason to settle prior to the adjudication of the pending criminal cases is obscene and without regard to the fiduciary responsibility owed to the taxpaying citizens of the City. There has been no civil litigation filed nor has there been any guilt determined that would require such a ridiculous reaction on the part of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and her administration."

"Just as Baltimore is returning to its pre-riot normalcy, this news threatens to interrupt any progress made toward restoring the relationship between the members of the Baltimore Police Department and the Baltimore City government. We strongly urge the city's spending panel to reject this proposed settlement and to wait until such time as there is a more appropriate response."

While some consider the timing of the settlement pivotal, so is the amount, since the state usually caps payments which typically stay under $200,000.

"It's rare. And it's particularly rare pre-trial," said attorney A. Dwight Petit.

Petit has handled high-profile police misconduct cases.

"What the city seems to be saying--that in certain cases, they're not going to be tied in by the cap, which is something that we've been arguing for a long time," Petit said.

The city has paid out almost $12 million, settling in officer misconduct cases from 2010 to 2014, and that number continues to grow.

The Board of Estimates will vote Wednesday on whether to approve the settlement.

Earlier this year, the governor approved a measure to increase to money police brutally victims can collect, doubling it from $200,000 to $400,000.

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