April 2, 1996 in Nation/World

Federal Judge Reverses Much-Reviled Ruling He Excluded Evidence, Saying Blacks Had Reason To Fear Police In Gritty Area

Larry Neumeister Associated Press

A federal judge who came under attack from the White House on down for throwing out a confession and 80 pounds of cocaine and heroin reversed himself Monday and reinstated the evidence.

U.S. District Judge Harold Baer Jr. said additional testimony from police and the defendant caused him to switch his initial ruling.

The judge had ruled that police officers violated the rights of Carol Bayless of Detroit by pulling over her car in New York City on April 21 because four men around it hurried away when they noticed police.

Police found the drugs in her trunk. But Baer said in his original ruling that the evidence was inadmissible because it was only natural in that neighborhood for black men to fear police and run away.

Sen. Bob Dole had said the judge should be impeached, and House Speaker Newt Gingrich had charged that Baer’s ruling was “the perfect reason why we are losing our civilization.”

The White House called the judge’s ruling “wrongheaded” and threatened to ask him to quit. Clinton appointed Baer in 1994.

In his reversal Monday, Baer apologized for the inference in his original ruling that it is common to run from police in Manhattan’s gritty Washington Heights section because of past corruption. “Unfortunately, the hyperbole … regretfully may have demeaned the law-abiding men and women who make Washington Heights their home and the vast majority of the dedicated men and women in blue who patrol the streets of our great city,” he wrote.

Prosecutor Guy Petrillo said “Good,” when told of Baer’s change of mind.

Bayless’ attorney, Ramon W. Pagan, said Monday he was disappointed with the switch.

“The outside pressure I believe influenced him,” he said.

The case now will be readied for trial, although Bayless had indicated that she may pursue a plea agreement. She is charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and heroin and remains jailed without bail.

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