Lieutenant Acquitted of Freddie Gray’s Death

     BALTIMORE (CN) — Lt. Brian Rice is not guilty of the three charges he faced related to the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, a judge found Monday morning — the third such acquittal in a row.
     Prosecutors have yet to secure a conviction in connection to 25-year-old Gray’s death from a severe spinal cord injury sustained while riding in the back of a police transport van.
     The jurist behind today’s decision, Judge Barry Williams, also acquitted Officers Edward Nero and Caesar Goodson Jr. of all charges in May and June, respectively.
     Rice is the fourth officer to stand trial in the case. The first trial, of Officer William Porter, ended in a hung jury and mistrial in December.
     Prosecutors had accused Rice, the highest-ranking officer charged in Gray’s case, with involuntary manslaughter, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. The state dropped a second charge of misconduct in office before the bench trial started, and Judge Williams nixed a charge of second-degree assault during the trial.     
     The court found that Rice’s actions did not rice to the level of criminality, in failing to secure Gray in the van with a seatbelt, and in having Gray arrested in the first place.
     It was Rice who had officers chase Gray and his friend, Brandon Ross, after the two men ran from police, unprovoked, in a high-crime neighborhood in Western Baltimore.
     Gray had been handcuffed and shackled when Rice put him on his stomach in the back of the transport van driven by Officer Goodson. The van made six stops in a 45-minute ride to the police station.
     Prosecutors indicted six officers total after Gray’s death inspired riots in Baltimore.
     After the two prior acquittals, Rice’s trial began amid calls by many for State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to drop the charges against the remaining officers. Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow and Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe have led the prosecution team.
     As in previous cases, Williams’ said the state failed to show Rice was aware of the possible risk of injury to Gray at the time the lieutenant decided not to seatbelt Gray. The state also failed to convince Williams that Rice’s actions were “a gross departure from the conduct of a reasonable person under similar circumstances.”
     Defense attorneys, led by Michael Belsky, argued that Rice had acted in the same way a “reasonable officer” would have acted during the nine seconds it took to load Gray into the van, as spectators gathered around, drawn by Gray’s scream during his arrest.
     Police allege Gray was in possession of an illegal switchblade knife when officers overtook him near the public housing complex Gilmore Homes.
     Three officers still face charges in the Gray case. Officer Garrett Miller goes to trial on July 27; Porter’s retrial is slated for Sept. 6; and Sgt. Alicia White’s trial begins on Oct. 13.
     
     Developing story…

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