BALTIMORE — Two men who spent years behind bars after being targeted by corrupt Baltimore police are seeking more than $40 million in damages in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.
Lawyers for Umar Burley and Brent Matthews, who were arrested in 2010, filed the lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department and the state of Maryland.
Burley was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison after 28 grams of heroin was planted in his crashed car by police. Matthews, a passenger in the car, was sentenced to nearly four years. They both pleaded guilty despite knowing they were innocent, according to a statement issued late last year from the Department of Justice.
A judge recently erased a manslaughter conviction against Burley stemming from the death of an 86-year-old man killed at the conclusion of a high-speed chase with Baltimore police in the April 2010 incident.
Last week, the disgraced ex-leader of a rogue police unit called the Gun Trace Task Force apologized to Burley during his sentencing in federal court. Wayne Jenkins, who was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to corruption charges, was one of the Baltimore officers involved in the high-speed chase with the men when Burley crashed into another car, killing Elbert Davis Sr.
Someone planted heroin in Burley's car after the deadly crash. In Jenkins' plea agreement, he admitted to knowing about the planted drugs.
In their lawsuit, the two men specifically name Jenkins as a defendant and three others who have not been criminally charged with anything, including the estate of Detective Sean Suiter, who was killed with his own gun the day before he was scheduled to testify before a grand jury about the incident.
It's not the first time Suiter's alleged involvement in the 2010 arrest of Burley and Matthews has come up publicly.
Last year, a defense lawyer for the pair asserted that Suiter was among a group of officers dressed in black, wearing face masks, and showing no visible badges during the arrest. He also asserted that Suiter was driving an unmarked vehicle that intentionally rear-ended Burley's car.
Suiter's November 2017 fatal shooting in a lot in West Baltimore remains an unsolved homicide investigation. There have been no arrests despite a $215,000 reward.