Per the Baltimore Sun, Ashley Overbey Underwood called 911 in 2012 to report a burglary, but was met with three violent officers that allegedly shot her with a stun gun, beat her, verbally abused and arrested her. With help from the American Civil Liberties Union, a lawsuit was filed against the cops on her behalf, and a $63,000 settlement was eventually negotiated. After only receiving half of the payment, Underwood’s money was withheld. The City of Baltimore said the restrained payments were in response to a violation of a non disparagement clause as she had spoken out about the police abuse on social media.
In July 2019, a federal appeals court deemed it unconstitutional to reduce or withhold the settlements of those who suffered at the hands of police. An executive order was later signed that stops the city from banning victims of police brutality from speaking out. Still, the City of Baltimore didn’t pay Underwood.
Now, however, a judge has ordered them to give Underwood the remaining $31,500, plus a yearly six percent interest.
“It’s been hurtful to see and hear so many horrible things that happened,” Underwood said in a statement. “But at the end of the day, it’s been amazing that we as a people stood together and was able to stand up to the bullies. If you have anything unjustly done to you, don’t give up no matter how big that bully is.”
The ACLU also responded to the judge’s ruling.
“This order finally brings about well-deserved resolution for Ms. Underwood who...never wavered in her commitment to fundamental free speech rights, notwithstanding the city’s bullying and thievery,” said ACLU of Maryland Legal Director Deborah Leon.
“For free speech to truly have meaning, it must protect the rights of all people,” she continued. “For too long, Black people have had their free speech rights denied when they challenge abuse at the hands of police. This victory helps create a precedent that advances the First Amendment, so that hopefully one day it will truly protect everyone in the United States.”