Baltimore police do not have to reinstate an officer who was fired after the department discovered she was married to an incarcerated Dead Man Inc. gang member, an appeals court has ruled.
The Court of Special Appeals on Tuesday upheld a decision by Baltimore police to terminate Meredith Cross, who argued that her constitutional rights were violated when she was fired from the department because she married Carlito Cabana –– a convicted murderer and a member of the Dead Man Inc. prison gang.
The court found that the Police Department did not violate her rights, that it "neither prevented appellant from marrying Cabana, nor forced her to obtain a divorce after learning about the marriage." The opinion continued that "the plaintiff has failed to show that the regulation infringes on either the right to marry or the First Amendment right of intimate association."
In the ruling, officials at Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland described Cabana as a 'Supreme Commander' who managed the gang's daily affairs inside the prison.
Cross had argued her relationship with Cabana did not affect her ability to serve as a police officer, and several of her colleagues, including her supervisor, attested to her work. Investigators found that she spoke to Cabana on the phone while on duty but that she was never heard giving Cabana information on official police business, the opinion said.
"The Department wants you to believe that she's guilty based purely on her marriage and her contacts and I don't believe that's enough to get you to a violation of the Agency's policies," her attorney told the hearing board, the opinion said.
Cross could not be reached for comment. Her attorney declined to comment. The Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Cross worked for Baltimore police from 2004 to 2010, according to the opinion. She applied to the department in February 2004; her application did not indicate that she had a boyfriend, and during the interview process, when she was asked if anyone she knew was in prison, she mentioned Cabana only as her "friend."
The couple married in a "spiritual ceremony" in 2004 at the Patuxent Institution, and she would later identify herself as Cabana's wife, the opinion said. The couple legally married July 10, 2009.
In March 2010, the department charged her with four counts of violating its General Orders, including conduct unbecoming of an officer, personal contact with a person of questionable character, that she did not properly perform her duties as an officer, and that she did not inform her superiors of her change in marital status.
She was terminated in December 2010 and later appealed this decision to the Baltimore Circuit Court, which upheld the department's decision.