The Baltimore County prosecutors’ office and police department have agreed to settle a 2018 lawsuit over allegations they violated the First Amendment rights of a woman they tried to stop from filing criminal charges against men she said sexually assaulted her.

The settlement is contingent on approval from the Maryland Board of Public Works and is expected to be considered at its Oct. 12 meeting, according to a letter from Assistant Attorney General Wendy Shiff, whose office represented State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger’s office.

The amount hasn’t been disclosed, and the plaintiff’s attorney declined to discuss details of the settlement.

The agreement comes days before Shellenberger, Assistant State’s Attorney Lisa Dever and police detectives were expected to stand trial in U.S. District Court. Court records show the case was stayed Tuesday.

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“After a lot of internal back and forth, I thought resolving things [through settlement] would be best rather than having to have my grandparents testify and seeing them go through that,” Anna Borkowski, the plaintiff who made the accusations, said in a text message Thursday.

“It wasn’t an easy decision but I’m satisfied with the outcome,” she wrote, “and look forward to closing this chapter of my life and moving forward.”

The public works board’s approval would put to rest a case that stemmed from a class-action lawsuit filed in 2018 by five female college students against the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and county law enforcement. The lawsuit alleged authorities mishandled sexual assault complaints, treated women who made such complaints with “indifference and disrespect” and that police discouraged them from reporting sexual assault.

U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow threw out nearly all of the claims in 2020 but allowed one count to move forward — Borkowski’s allegation that Shellenberger’s office violated her First Amendment rights when it sent police detectives to her grandmother’s home to dissuade her from seeking sexual assault charges against three male UMBC baseball players.

Shellenberger — who has long been criticized for his handling of sexual assault cases and reluctance to try them — wouldn’t prosecute Borkowski’s case because the allegations didn’t meet the “element of force or incapacitation as prescribed by statute,” according to the office.

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Detectives’ notes obtained by Borkowski’s attorney show police detectives who investigated the case, Kristin Burrows and Nicholas Tomas, had interviewed the three baseball players at a Chick-fil-A in November 2017. Interviews with each former student, who claimed the sexual acts were consensual, took mere minutes.

After Borkowski — then a Towson University student — twice sought to have criminal charges filed through a district court commissioner in 2018, detectives’ notes obtained by Borkowski’s attorney showed that Shellenberger, Dever, detectives and high-ranking police commanders intervened.

Detectives’ notes showed the commissioner whom Borkowski first petitioned denied her request after contacting Dever. When a second commissioner agreed to accept first-degree rape charges (among other offenses) against the men, authorities quickly moved to get the charges dismissed, according to the notes first reported in The Baltimore Sun.

Shortly after the charges were accepted, Burrows coordinated with others to stop the criminal summonses about to be served to the three men. After stopping the warrants, Burrows, police detective Tomas and a uniformed county officer drove to Borkowski’s grandmother’s house in North Baltimore to convince her not to make any further attempt to charge the men, according to court records.

Burrows had been directed to the city home by Bonnie Fox, an investigator in the state’s attorney’s office, according to Burrows’ notes, to tell Borkowski to stop applying for charges or she could face a lawsuit or criminal charges.

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In December, the state’s attorney’s office asked U.S. District Judge Deborah K. Chasanow, who presided over the case, to issue a ruling without a trial, arguing that county law enforcement authorities are entitled to qualified immunity and that Borkowski couldn’t prove her rights were violated.

Qualified immunity generally protects prosecutors when they perform duties outside of their core responsibility. The law protects government officials accused of violating constitutional rights.

Chasanow denied Shellenberger immunity, writing there was sufficient evidence that Shellenberger’s office infringed upon Borkowski’s First Amendment rights, according to court records.

Officials should have known that they could not use “threats and intimidation” to retaliate against the woman for pursuing the grievance, she wrote.

Shellenberger, who in July won a competitive Democratic primary for his fifth term as the county’s top prosecutor, couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday; he’s previously told The Banner that he sent detectives to Borkowski “out of the goodness of my heart” to shield her from being sued by the baseball players.

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Borkowski, now a clinical social worker, said her case’s coming closure feels surreal — and that her “goal of accountability was met.”

She hopes her story, which rose to national attention, “changes the way law enforcement and public officials treat victims of crime — especially sexual assault.”

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Taylor DeVille covered Baltimore County government for The Baltimore Banner with a focus on the County Executive, County Council, accountability and quality of life issues affecting suburban residents. Before joining The Banner, Taylor covered Baltimore County government and breaking news for The Baltimore Sun.

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