Questions just starting for city leaders about settlement of lawsuit

October 27, 2002|By GREGORY KANE

IT LOOKS like it's correction time again. Thanks to Cindy Rollert of Pikesville and a mess of other e-mailers/readers, I can now tell where the U.S. Air Force Academy is really located.

"[It] is not located in Boulder," wrote Rollert. "It is located just north of Colorado Springs, about 100 miles south-southeast of Boulder, at the base of beautiful Pikes Peak."

Many thanks, Ms. Rollert, for watching my back. I knew I should have gone with my first instinct, which was to write that the Air Force Academy was "somewhere out there in Colorado."

Other e-mailers were inspired to pose questions to Baltimore leaders about those taxpayer dollars they squeezed us for to pay the family of career thug Larry Hubbard, killed in a police shooting he precipitated by stealing a car, fleeing from the cops and resisting arrest by trying to grab Officer Robert Quick's gun.

Hubbard's family filed a lawsuit against Quick and his partner, Barry Hamilton, who fatally shot Hubbard in the back of the head. The grounds for this lawsuit are not clear, but I think we can rule out that they were based on Hubbard being a solid, law-abiding citizen who had never done wrong in his life.

The lawsuit was scheduled for trial this month, but city officials settled with Hubbard's family. Officials aren't telling us the amount, mind you. They want to "protect" us from others who might file such lawsuits. They don't want to encourage them.

Apparently there are more of us Balti-morons who aren't so stupid that we're willing to accept any old explanation of how City Hall folks waste our money. Some people want answers. Here are some questions posed by a couple of e-mailers.

How can city officials now say with a straight face that "crime doesn't pay"?

If a cop is killed in the line of duty, will the city give his family an amount equal to or greater than what we gave the family of a man whose mission was to make life miserable for us all?

What kind of price tag do you put on someone's life who will likely be killed because of his illegal activity?

Would Hubbard have brought home the kind of money his family received in the settlement if he had worked a legitimate job?

Will the city give the families of Angela and Carnell Dawson, the anti-drug crusaders massacred with their five children in the firebombing of their home, an amount of money equal to or greater than that given to Hubbard's family?

How much money was saved by closing the firehouse located only three blocks from the Dawsons' home?

Will city officials ask Hubbard family members to donate a portion of their ill-gotten gains to Dawson family members?

Would trying the case have been more costly than a settlement?

Attorney Bob Verderaime said he might have some light to shed on that last question. For more than 25 years, Verderaime represented police officers who were the targets of civil lawsuits. He now works in private practice. A new crop of lawyers came in with the administration of Mayor Martin O'Malley. Verderaime says he has no problem with that. Each mayor chooses his own personnel.

Verderaime does have a problem with how the Hubbard case was handled.

"I can probably count on one hand the cases that were settled," Verderaime said. "We tried cases. This [settling] is something relatively new to the city. The policy had been to try the case."

Verderaime, while acknowledging that he didn't know what kind of evidence lawyers for Hubbard's family had, said that, statistically, the odds were probably overwhelming on the city's side.

"Juries returned verdicts in the officers' favor in over 90 percent of the cases," Verderaime said. That includes federal and state courts.

With those kind of odds, it makes you wonder why the city chumped out, doesn't it?

City Solicitor Thurman Zollicoffer doesn't believe officials chumped out. He said there is no new policy to settle cases as opposed to taking them to trial.

"Cases rise and fall on their own merit," Zollicoffer said. "There is no policy either to try a case or settle a case. We treat them on a case-by-case basis."

The city settled with Hubbard's family, Zollicoffer said, based on the recommendation of the lawyers for Hamilton and Quick.

No matter who recommended what, there are still plenty of us Balti-morons who get the uneasy feeling that somebody down there in City Hall has been way too generous with our tax bucks. The questions won't end any time soon on this one.

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