Baltimore cop is NOT GUILTY over Freddie Gray's death: Officer accused of assaulting 25-year-old black man who died in police van walks free
- Edward Nero was cleared of all charges related to 25-year-old's death
- Found not guilty of assault, misconduct and reckless endangerment
- Was one of six officers charged after Gray died in April 2015
- Gray succumbed to injuries he suffered while riding in a police van
- Nero's defense lawyers argued that he didn't arrest Gray
- They also claimed it was the driver's responsibility to buckle him in
- The police union said Nero was 'relieved' after being acquitted
- However he will still remain on desk duty as the other officers face trial
- Baltimore's Mayor says the city is ready to deal with any disturbance
- Freddie Gray's family's attorney, Billy Murphy, said in a statement that he believed the verdict was fair and correct
A Baltimore police officer has been found not guilty of charges he faced in relation to the death of Freddie Gray.
Officer Edward Nero was cleared of assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment after the 25-year-old black man died from injuries he suffered in the back of a police van following his arrest in April 2015.
According to witnesses in court, plain-clothed police officers came and hugged Nero one-by-one after the verdict was read out by Judge Barry Williams.
A small group of protesters gathered outside the courthouse as the city's police prepared for a reaction to the verdict. The mayor of the city immediately appealed for calm.
Freddie Gray's family's attorney, Billy Murphy, said in a statement that he believed the verdict was fair and correct.
He told supporters to be patient as he believes the ruling has nothing to do with the trials of the other five officers.
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A police officer shakes the hand of Edward Nero as he leaves court after he was found not guilty of all charges in relation to the death of Freddie Gray
He was surrounded by police officers and appeared to have avoided crowds of protesters following the verdict
Nero (center), pictured with members of his legal team, had faced assault, misconduct and reckless endangerment charges following the death of the 25-year-old
The officer showed little emotion as he left the courthouse in Baltimore on Monday morning. He will remain on active desk duty while the rest of his colleagues face trial
Nero said he was 'relieved' that the nightmare was almost over, but will still be on active desk duty while the other officers face trial.
Baltimore police also confirmed that he was still under investigation for his role in the arrest.
As the verdict was read, Nero dropped his head down and his attorney placed a hand on his back.
The courtroom was quiet. When the judge said he was not guilty, Nero stood up and hugged his attorney, and appeared to wipe away a tear.
'The state's theory has been one of recklessness and negligence,' Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams said. 'There has been no evidence that the defendant intended for a crime to occur.'
The judge added: 'This court does not find that the defendant detained Gray without probable cause.'
Williams said prosecutors had failed to prove their case. During a 25-reading of his decision, he said that Nero acted as a 'similarly situated' officer would.
He said Nero's partner, Garrett Miller, had testified that Nero had not handcuffed Gray.
Nero was one of six Baltimore police officers charged in the case. He waived his right to a jury trial, opting instead to argue his case before Williams.
Nero (mugshot left) was arrested and charged after Gray (right) died a week after he was injured in the back of a police van in April 2015
Nero was one of the officers who led Gray into the back of the van where he sustained the deadly injuries
Black Lives Matter demonstrators gathered outside the courthouse for the verdict as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced that city officials were braced for any disturbance
A man, believed to part of Edward Nero's family, is led away from the court by law enforcement as the cop exited in a car on the other side of the building
The supporter acted as a decoy for Nero. He was followed by the media after leaving the court while the officer slipped out of another door while shaking hands with police
He is the second officer to face a judge following Grey's death. Officer William Porter's manslaughter trial ended with a hung jury at the end of last year. He will be retried later this year.
The trial of van driver, Officer Caesar Goodson, is expected to begin in just two weeks
Following the announcement, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Baltimore's mayor, said the city is prepared to respond to any disturbance.
She said the city will protect neighborhoods, businesses and residents.
Kevin Davis the Commissioner of the Baltimore Police Department added to her sentiments.
He said in a statement: 'Our American criminal justice system has spoken today. Respect and reverence for Judge Williams’ verdict must now prevail throughout our great City.
'As the eyes of the nation are upon us, I have no doubt we will all exhibit behaviors that represent the very best of Baltimore.'
Gray's death April 19, 2015, set off more than a week of protests followed by looting, rioting and arson that prompted a citywide curfew.
Rawlings-Blake's statements asks residents to be patient and allow 'the entire process to come to a conclusion.'
She released it shortly after a judge found Officer Edward Nero not guilty of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. She says, 'This is our American system of justice and police officers must be afforded the same justice system as every other citizen.'
She said Nero now faces a Police Department administrative review.
The Baltimore police officers' union said Officer Nero was relieved by the verdict.
Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3 President Gene Ryan said in a statement Monday that Nero's relief is tempered by the fact that five other officers await trial.
Gray is seen being dragged towards a police van following his arrest in Baltimore in April 2015
The defense argued that the officers who responded that day acted responsibly, and called witnesses to bolster their argument that any reasonable officer in Nero's position would have made the same decisions
Activist Westley West (left in white sweater) chants, 'No Justice, no peace' outside the courthouse
Baltimore City Sheriff's Deputies push photographers back as Baltimore Police Officer Edward Nero's family members leave the Mitchell Courthouse-West
Members of the media initially thought this man was Nero, before others speculated that he was a lookalike. It was later revealed he was a member of his family used to create a diversion
Ryan said: 'Officer Nero prays that justice will serve each of the remaining officers with the same fairness that it served him.'
He added that none of the officers did anything wrong. He says prosecutors rushed to charge them without a meaningful investigation.
Ryan said the charges are politically motivated.
He says the prosecution of the officers has destroyed their lives and demolished the relationship between the city's police department and the state's attorney's office.
There was a large police presence when a man, believed to be Nero, left the courthouse on Monday morning.
But it turned out the man was a member of Nero's family. Members of the media started running towards him when he left the courthouse, prompting others to follow.
Nero actually left in a separate vehicle a short time later.
Prosecutors had said the 30-year-old unlawfully arrested Gray without probable cause and was negligent when he didn't buckle the prisoner into a seat belt.
Nero opted for a bench trial rather than a jury trial.
Westley screams at people leaving the Baltimore courthouse following the judge's decision
Nero kept his head down as he walked into court. His defense lawyers argued that his client didn't arrest Gray and that it is the police van driver's responsibility to buckle in detainees
Nero was surrounded by police officers and members of his legal team as he walked into the courthouse
The assault charges carried a maximum of 10 years in prison while the reckless endangerment could have landed him of five years behind bars.
Gary's death set off more than a week of protests followed by looting, rioting and arson that prompted a citywide curfew. His name became a rallying cry in the growing national conversation about the treatment of black men by police officers.
Shortly after Gray's death, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged six officers. Three of them are black; Nero and two others are white.
Nero's attorney argued that his client didn't arrest Gray and that it is the police van driver's responsibility to buckle in detainees.
The defense argued that the officers who responded that day acted responsibly, and called witnesses to bolster their argument that any reasonable officer in Nero's position would have made the same decisions.
Nero's lawyers also sought to convince the judge that the department's order requiring that all inmates be strapped in is more suggestion than rule because officers are expected to act with discretion based on the circumstances of each situation.
FREDDIE GRAY: THE OFFICERS WHO ARE YET TO FACE TRIAL
Officer William G Porter: Charged with involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault and misconduct in office. The first two charged held a sentence of up to 10 years. The grand jury indicted the black officer on all charges and added a charge of reckless endangerment. A mistrial was declared in December after a hung jury.
His retrial is scheduled for September 6.
Officer Edward M. Nero: On May 23, Officer Nero was cleared of assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment charges. The assault charges carried a maximum of 10 years. He waived his right to a jury trial, opting instead to argue his case before the judge.
Officer Caesar R Goodson Jr: The driver of the van. The 45-year-old 16-year veteran, who is black, is charged withsecond degree depraved heart murder, which has a 30 year sentence. He is also facingmanslaughter (involuntary), assault/second degree, manslaughter by vehicle (gross negligence), manslaughter by vehicle (criminal negligence) and misconduct in office.
His trial is scheduled for June 6.
Lt Brian W. Rice: The officer who initially made eye contact with Gray while on bike patrol. The 17-year veteran, 41, is the highest-ranking officer charged. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter and two counts of second degree assault, manslaughter by vehicle (gross negligence) and two of misconduct in office. The grand jury dropped the false imprisonment but added reckless endangerment. His trial begins July 5.
Officer Garrett E Miller: The 26-year-old, who, along with Nero, caught Gray after he fled and handcuffed him with his arms behind his back. He faces two counts of assault/second degree, with a ten year sentence, two of misconduct in office and one of reckless endangerment.
Trial set for July 27.
Sgt Alicia D. White: Accused of not calling for medical assistance when she encounter Gray. The black sergeant, 30, and Baltimore native, is charged with involuntary manslaughter, second degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.
Her trial is set for October 13.
Nero (top right) was one of six officers charged following the death of gray. Top row from left, Caesar R. Goodson Jr., Garrett E. Miller and bottom row from left, William G. Porter, Brian W. Rice and Alicia D. White, have been charged with felonies. Porter's manslaughter trial ended in a hung jury
Gray is pictured on April 19, 2015, lying on his deathbed at the University of Maryland hospital
TIMELINE OF EVENTS FOLLOWING THE ARREST OF FREDDIE GRAY
The events following the April 12, 2015, arrest of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who was injured in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department and died a week later. Six officers involved in the arrest were charged.
April 12: Freddie Gray is arrested after police make eye contact with him and another man, and the pair run. Officers put Gray in a transport van. He says several times that he needs medical care during the approximately 44-minute ride to a police district station. An ambulance takes him to a hospital in critical condition.
April 19: Gray dies at a hospital.
April 21: The U.S. Department of Justice opens a civil rights investigation into Gray's death.
April 25: A peaceful march ends downtown, then some people smash police car windows and storefronts. Fans at a Baltimore Orioles-Boston Red Sox baseball game are told to stay inside Oriole Park at Camden Yards temporarily because of public safety concerns.
April 27: Gray's family, religious and political leaders attend his funeral. In the afternoon, rioting, looting and arson break out and continue through the night. More than 200 people are arrested. The Maryland National Guard is called up, the first time for a civil disturbance in the state since 1968. A nightly curfew is imposed.
April 29: The Orioles play the Chicago White Sox in a stadium without fans after officials close the game to the public.
May 1: Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announces charges against the officers, saying 'no one is above the law.'
May 8: U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announces a civil rights investigation of the Baltimore police force as a whole, looking for patterns of excessive force and improper stops and searches.
Sept. 8: Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announces a tentative $6.4 million settlement between Gray's parents and the city of Baltimore.
Dec. 16: A mistrial is declared in Officer William Porter's case after the jury can't reach a unanimous decision after three days of deliberations.
March 8: The Court of Appeals rules that Porter must testify against his colleagues while he awaits retrial.
May 23: Baltimore Police Officer Edward Nero is acquitted of assault and other charges in connection to Gray's arrest.
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