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23 May, 2016 15:01

Judge finds officer not guilty on all charges related to Freddie Gray death

Judge finds officer not guilty on all charges related to Freddie Gray death

A judge delivered a not guilty verdict in the trial of a Baltimore, Maryland police officer for crimes related to the death of black arrestee Freddie Gray last year. Gray’s death triggered demonstrations and riots in the majority-black city.

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.

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.”

Protestors asking for the officer’s conviction could be seen outside the courthouse ahead of the verdict.

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.