Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams acquitted Officer Edward Nero on all counts for his role in the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who suffered a spinal cord injury while in Baltimore police custody last year, on May 23.
Williams reportedly found Nero, one of six officers who had been charged in the case, not guilty of assault, misconduct in office, and reckless endangerment, during a bench trial, which Nero opted to have instead of a jury trial.
“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,” Williams stated. “Therefore, the verdict for each count is not guilty.”
Nero’s attorneys released the following statement regarding the verdict:
“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. 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.”
Prosecutors in the case have been bound by a gag order, and have issued no comment regarding the matter.
In addition, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby reportedly did not attend the reading of the verdict.
Gray family attorney Billy Murphy surprisingly praised the judge for doing “what he believed was just” relative to the case; however, Murphy pointed out Williams had been “careful” to clarify his findings were specific to this particular case.
Nero was the second officer in the case to stand trial for Gray’s death. The first trial, for Officer William Porter, ended in a hung jury.
Three of the officers involved in the arrest, which sparked protests in Baltimore and around the country last year, were white, and three were black.
As a result, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also issued a statement, which called for calm following the verdict.
“Officer Nero will face an administrative review by the police department,” Rawlings-Blake stated. “In the case of any disturbance in the city, we are prepared to respond. We will protect our neighborhoods, our businesses and the people of our city.”
Officer Garrett Miller, Lt. Brian Rice, Sgt. Alicia White and Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., are the four remaining officers who are awaiting trial in the case. The trial for Goodson, the diver of the van Gray was placed in during his arrest, begins June 6.