Man held in Charles Village rape sues after release

No charges filed after DNA was negative

February 18, 2011|By Peter Hermann, The Baltimore Sun

A man who was arrested and charged with raping a woman in Charles Village, then released from custody 14 months later after forensic evidence failed to link him to the victim, is suing the Baltimore Police Department, alleging false arrest.

The sweeping $10 million lawsuit filed on behalf of 46-year-old Marlow Humbert in U.S. District Court names current and former police commanders and mayors, as well as several of the arresting officers, and alleges that a pervasive culture tolerating mass arrests and public hysteria over the attacks led to his detention.

The lawsuit alleges that police and the news media branded Humbert the "Charles Village Rapist," a term associated with a series of violent attacks that occurred in Charles Village and Mount Vernon between June and November 2008.

Humbert was arrested in May 2008 and charged in an attack that occurred the previous month. Police at the time labeled him a suspect in at least one other rape in the North Baltimore neighborhood. The lawsuit details how police posted fliers with sketches and went door to door warning residents.

The suit alleges that city police did a shoddy investigation, failed to press the victim about inconsistent statements and manipulated mug shots so that Humbert would become a viable suspect. The suit says that police had DNA results within a month that proved Humbert could not have attacked the woman but held him in custody and did not drop the charges until July 2009.

A spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department and City Solicitor George N. Nilson declined to comment, saying they had not seen or reviewed the lawsuit. It was filed by attorney Barry R. Glazer, best known for his late-night television ads in which he champions the underprivileged.

The lawsuit says that the police and media demonized Humbert as detectives raced to arrest a suspect in the attacks, which frightened residents and prompted community meetings. The Baltimore Sun first wrote about those attacks in November 2008, when police said a serial rapist was on the loose.

By that time, however, Humbert was already in jail in connection with the rape that April. Police did not link Humbert to the "Charles Village Rapist" attacking victims later that fall, though his name came up repeatedly on neighborhood Internet message boards.

Charles Edwards, a law clerk in Glazer's office who drew up the suit, said that his client's name became synonymous with the Charles Village Rapist. Police have not made any arrest in the attacks that occurred in the latter part of 2008, and Edwards said it's possible that the person responsible for those rapes also was responsible for the crime with which Humbert had been charged.

peter.hermann@baltsun.com

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