A Maryland police officer has been found not guilty on all charges relating to the death of Freddie Gray who died last year from injuries sustained while being transported under police custody in a van.
Gray, a 25-year-old African American man, died a week after his arrest from injuries sustained while in police custody
Edward Nero is the first of six officers charged to receive a verdict since Gray’s death sparked uprising in the city more than a year ago.
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Russia Today reports:
The verdict was delivered on Monday morning by Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams.
Prosecutors had charged Officer Edward Nero, 30, with second-degree intentional assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of officer misconduct over the April 2015 incident. Prosecutors argued that Gray was arrested without justification, and that the spinal injuries that led to his death resulted from him being not secured in the transport van.
Nero faced a maximum prison sentence of 10 years in prison for the assault charged and five years for the reckless endangerment charge.
Nero opted for a bench trial, meaning that Williams determined his fate instead of a jury.
Gray’s death resulted in mass protests in Baltimore last year, which culminated in a state of emergency being declared and the Maryland National Guard being activated to keep the peace.
The weeklong trial centered on the events that led up to Gray’s fatal van ride, with Nero’s attorney arguing that his client didn’t arrest or even touch Gray except to find an asthma inhaler, and that it was the van driver’s responsibility to make sure the detainee was safely buckled in.
Betsy Kirk’s sketch of #Nero as Judge Williams read #NotGuilty @ end of explanation. Nero in tears over acquittal pic.twitter.com/3XqzwhV0yF
— Brian Kuebler (@BrianfromABC2) May 23, 2016
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake delivered a statement shortly after the verdict was announced, saying that the city was prepared to respond to any new unrest.
“Now that the criminal case has come to an end, Officer Nero will face an administrative review by the Police Department,” the statement said. “We once again ask the citizens to be patient to allow the entire process to come to a conclusion. In the case of any disturbance to the city, we are prepared to respond. We will protect our neighborhoods, our businesses and the people of our city.”
The Baltimore Police Department said in a statement that Nero’s status will not change from “an administrative capacity” during its own internal investigation. That investigation will be handled by another police department, the statement said, and will not be completed until the criminal cases against the other five officers are completed, “because they will likely be witnesses in each case.”
Statement on @BaltimorePolice Officer Edward Nero’s status: pic.twitter.com/dg0xE4sSWc
— T.J. Smith (@TJSmithMedia) May 23, 2016
Protestors asking for the officer’s conviction could be seen outside the courthouse ahead of the verdict.
“We in a struggle… “
At the #NeroVerdict for excessive force which resulted in the death of #FreddieGray pic.twitter.com/3g3b3oVVmL
— Harris from the Post (@rousseau_ist) May 23, 2016
Nero is the second of six officers facing charges related to Gray’s death to stand trial. The first trial, which was held for Officer William Porter, ended with a hung jury in December.
The next trial related to Gray’s death will be held on June 6 for Cesar Goodson, the driver of police van. He faces the most serious charges of the six officers: second-degree murder, manslaughter, second-degree assault, two vehicular manslaughter charges and misconduct in office.
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