By Bronte Price, PoliticKING
Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams rejected the state's case against Officer Edward Nero on Monday, acquitting him on all counts for his role in the arrest and eventual death of Freddie Gray. The judgment followed a five-day bench trial.
Nero was facing four misdemeanor charges of second degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in office. The prosecutors argued that Nero, 30, assaulted Gray by detaining him without justification. The reckless endangerment charge was related to Nero's part in putting Gray into an arrest wagon and not buckling his seat belt.
During closing arguments on Thursday, Williams questioned the prosecutors about their theory of assault, which some legal experts called unprecedented.
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Williams said on Monday that there were "no credible facts" to show that Nero was directly involved in Gray's arrest. He also said that testimony showed that Nero's role in putting Gray in the van was “minimized by the actions of others and not unreasonable given his training.”
"Based on the evidence presented, this court finds that the state has not met its burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all required elements of the crimes charged. Therefore, the verdict for each count is not guilty," Williams said.
Marc Zayon and Allison Levine, Nero's attorneys, said in a statement, "The State's Attorney for Baltimore City rushed to charge him, as well as the other five officers, completely disregarding the facts of the case and the applicable law." Zayon added, "His hope is that the State's Attorney will re-evaluate the remaining five officers' cases and dismiss their charges. Like Officer Nero, these officers have done nothing wrong."
Nero was the second of six city police officers who are being charged in the case to stand trial. Officer William Porter, whose case was the first to be heard, ended in a hung jury and mistrial last December.
Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., who drove the van in which Gray suffered fatal injuries, is scheduled to stand trial in two weeks. He is being charged for second-degree murder and related charges.
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