Board of Estimates approves settlement for Yusef Smith.
Baltimore’s Board of Estimates recently approved a $100,000 settlement to Yusef Smith who served time behind bars as a result of false testimony given by Officer Michael O’Sullivan. The board voted unanimously in favor of the deal, while trying without success to also revoke O’Sullivan’s pension and recoup settlement costs from him, even after O’Sullivan was convicted of perjury. Advocates for those wrongfully accused contend the case represents an abuse of power, particularly within the world of law enforcement.
Smith arrested by O’Sullivan in 2018 because he was “within close proximity to a gun on the ground.” He was charged illegal possession of a handgun and other offenses. There was never any proof that Smith was the owner of the gun, however, nor had any connection made to any other weapons-related charges he for which had was made to serve time. According to the board’s agenda, “O’Sullivan wrote a false statement saying he saw Smith throw the gun before fleeing. O’Sullivan repeated that testimony at Smith’s trial, and Smith was convicted” of the crimes.
Smith had appealed his conviction and a circuit court judge dismissed it only after prosecutors were able to obtain and review the officer’s body cam footage, finding “O’Sullivan could not have seen what he testified to under oath,” according to case documents. Smith then sued the city and O’Sullivan with allegations of “malicious prosecution and abuse of process.”
Lisa Walden, a city attorney who represents the Baltimore Police Department, said it would be difficult for the city to win a civil case, especially “given that O’Sullivan was convicted of perjury.” She added, “State law provides indemnification for local government employees who commit illegal acts in the course of their employment. A separate memorandum of understanding with the police department also provides protection.”
O’Sullivan was charged in May 2019 and convicted that October. He was sentenced in December of the same year to 15 months in jail. However, the officer did not resign until the beginning of December 2020, and this is the issue that was brought to the table. The board considered lobbying for a change to the law barring them from seeking to eliminate the officer’s pension and recoup expenses on the state level. Democratic City Council President Nick Mosby, also a member of the board, called the situation a “gross imbalance of what government is there for.” He asked, “Right now, an officer could hurt, maim, steal, kill, as we saw in (the Gun Trace Task Force case) and still keep their pension?”
“Yes, Mr. President,” Walden responded.
Smith did not appear at the settlement meeting. His attorney, Steve Silverman, responded to the board’s decision on his client’s behalf, saying, “This is another example of a fairly recent trend where Baltimore City is doing the right thing in making amends to citizens harmed by the police. We applaud the mayor and city solicitor’s office for fairly resolving this case expeditiously.”
In total, Smith served seventy days in jail and $50,000 in economic damages, according to the board’s agenda. The settlement is meant to recoup some of his losses.