On Oct. 25, 2013, a two-year feud between neighbors in an upscale Mt. Royal apartment building escalated to a physical altercation during an alleged racist tirade. In a nine-page letter dated Feb. 18, to the Office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, Byron Franklin, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, outlines the argument he had with his neighbor Matthew Clagett a few days prior to Halloween. The letter also describes several volatile confrontations – most racially charged – between the two men over the course of two years.
“I had music playing through my laptop computer without speakers attached (thus it was in no way loud),” Franklin writes about his conflict. “At 11:40 p.m., the resident of the next apartment, Matthew Clagett, a 36-year old White man, began violently banging on my wall and yelling, “Turn that s— off n—er!”
Franklin moved to the Railway Lofts, located across from Penn Station on St. Paul Street, in 2010, and said Clagett and his live-in girlfriend moved next door in 2011.
The AFRO attempted to contact Clagett about the accusations leveled against him by Franklin, but a female who claimed he didn’t reside there answered the phone number listed in his name. After contacting the State’s Attorney’s Office for comment we were informed it is their policy not to discuss open cases.
Franklin, who teaches “Race and the Law,” and “International Law and the Use of Force,” at the University of Baltimore, resides at the St. Paul Street address two or three times a week to teach at the nearby school. The remainder of the week he lives in New York City where he was born.
In his letter to the State’s Attorney, he continued his description of the events of Oct. 25. “Didn’t I tell you to never bang on my godd— wall or my door again?” was Franklin’s reply after Clagett allegedly banged on his door just before midnight.
“I don’t care. Turn down your music because I have to wake up early you Black son of a b—-!”
Franklin claims that when Clagett said this he spat in the law professor’s face.
That is when, Franklin admits, he shoved Clagett causing him to fall down. “I did not push him that hard and it appeared that he enacted a fake fall. Matthew Clagett then immediately jumps up and comes towards me and tries to take a swing at my face. I easily blocked his punch with my hand,” Franklin wrote.
According to Franklin, Clagett then said, “I got you now you Black bastard. I’m calling the cops.” Franklin claims Clagett did not call the police that night, however, both men filed peace orders against each other and Franklin filed an assault charge against Clagett.
This is where the story becomes decidedly more bizarre and infuriating for Franklin. During a peace order hearing in November, the estranged neighbors signed a written agreement and the peace orders were dismissed. That same month Franklin met with Assistant State’s Attorney Sandra Kemick of the Civilian Review Unit, who Franklin claims was dismissive of his allegations and treated him, “terribly.”
Kemick ordered Franklin and Clagett to mediation. The mediation hearing took place in December. Franklin attended with his attorney J. Wyndal Gordon and found out that the assault charges against Clagett were “secretly” dismissed by the State’s Attorney – specifically Kemick – while the assault charges against Franklin remained in place.
The obvious question is why?
“I think what has transpired is patently unfair and it’s an insult to those who love and respect justice,” Gordon said. “This is your Baltimore `loud music case.’ I believe that this particular case involves selective prosecution based upon race because there is just no, non-discriminatory legitimate reason why they dismissed the case in advance of the original trial date and did not provide us with any notice in violation of the victims rights act.”
“The rage with which Matthew Clagett has banged on my wall and screamed racial epithets at me almost resembles the acts of Michael Dunn before he shot 17-year old Jordan Davis in Florida,” stated Franklin. “We all deserve equal treatment under the law and that is far from what has occurred thus far in this case, but that is all that I am requesting.”
On Feb. 19, there was another hearing for this case, but a trial date has not been determined for the assault charge against Franklin.