Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams on Monday acquitted Officer Edward Nero of all counts for his role in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.The Baltimore prosecutor is wasting everyone's time and money with these political show trials.
The judgment, following a five-day bench trial, is the first in the closely-watched case. Nero, 30, faced four misdemeanor charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in office.
Prosecutors had argued that Nero committed an assault by detaining Gray without justification, while the reckless endangerment charge related to Nero's role in putting Gray into an arrest wagon without buckling a seat belt. In closing arguments Thursday, Williams had skeptically questioned prosecutors about their theory of assault, which legal experts said was unprecedented.
Nero leaned forward after the verdict was read, and wiped his eyes. He hugged his attorneys.
Nero was the second of six city police officers charged in the case to stand trial. The first trial, of Officer William Porter, ended in a hung jury and mistrial last December.
Nero, a former New Jersey volunteer firefighter who joined the Baltimore Police Department in 2012, is one of three officers who were on bike patrol when they chased and arrested Gray in West Baltimore.
Gray, 25, suffered severe spinal cord injuries while in the back of a Baltimore police van, prosecutors say. He died a week later, touching off citywide protests. On the day of his funeral on April 27, rioting, looting and arson broke out, leading the mayor to institute a weeklong nightly curfew and the governor to call in the National Guard.
Nero's trial lasted six days, with the prosecution calling 14 witnesses and the defense calling seven before closing statements last Thursday.
Nero's attorneys had sought to minimize his role in the arrest, saying that he had limited contact with Gray. They also argued that Nero followed his training.
The next trial in the case will be that of Officer Caesar Goodson Jr, the driver of the van used to transport Gray. His trial is scheduled to begin June 6. His trial is to be followed by those of Lt. Brian Rice (July 5), Officer Garrett Miller (July 27), Officer William Porter (Sept. 6) and Sgt. Alicia White (Oct. 13).