In his decision to acquit Baltimore Officer Edward Nero in the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray, Judge Barry G. Williams said Monday that there were “no credible facts” to prove that he was directly involved in Gray’s arrest, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Prosecutors charged Nero with second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and two counts of misconduct in office in Gray’s death, which sparked protests across the nation last spring over police brutality in communities of color. Nero pleaded not guilty.
But on Monday, the judge said the state failed to prove Nero acted unreasonably and that there was no evidence to support the state’s accomplice liability argument, which claimed Nero knew about the crime, then acted willfully to further it.
In the verdict, which came after a six-day trial, the judge also said that prosecutors did not prove a reckless endangerment charge against Nero over a failure to put a seat belt on Gray, noting that he had no direct role in putting Gray in the transport van to the jail.
During the closing arguments, Baltimore deputy state attorney Janice Bledsoe said, “Officer Nero knew what the risks were to put him in a wagon unrestrained,” and that “he could be thrown around the wagon like a pinball, just going back and forth, back and forth,” according to the Post.
Prosecutors tried to prove that Nero had no “probable cause” to arrest Gray, and further implied that the arrest amounted to an assault, writes the Washington Post.
According to Justin Fenton, the Sun’s crime reporter, Nero was emotional during the reading of the verdict.
The Sun’s Kevin Rector tweeted that Gray’s twin sister Fredericka left the courtroom “visibly upset.”
The Baltimore Police Department released a statement posted by The Baltimore Sun:
“Although the criminal case against officer Edward Nero has come to a close, the internal investigation has not,” the statement reads. “With that, officer Nero’s status will remain unchanged. He will remain in an administrative capacity while this investigation continues.
The internal investigation is being handled by other police departments. The internal investigation will not be completed until all of the criminal cases against the other five officers are completed because they will likely be witnesses in each case.”
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also released a statement calling for calm, saying that officers are prepared to respond in case of any disturbances in the city.
There are five more trials relating to Gray’s death. The next trial will be that of officer Caesar Goodson Jr., who drove the van in which Gray was transported. Goodson’s trial is scheduled to begin on June 6.
Lt. Brian Rice’s trial will follow on July 5, which will be followed by officer Garrett Miller’s trial on July 27, officer William Porter’s on September 6, and Sgt. Alicia White’s on October 13.