Baltimore police Officer Edward Nero, seen here arriving to court on Monday, was found not guilty by a Maryland judge on Monday. Nero, 30, was charged with second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in office, related to his role in Gray's arrest on April 12, 2015. Nero, one of six arresting officer charged, pleaded not guilty. Freddie Gray, 25, suffered fatal spin injury causing death after being arrested and transported by Baltimore City Police. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
BALTIMORE, May 23 (UPI) -- Maryland Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams on Monday ruled Baltimore police Officer Edward Nero is not guilty of all charges in his case related to the death of Freddie Gray.
Nero, 30, one of six Baltimore police officers to be prosecuted in Gray's arrest and death, said he pursued the 25-year-old on April 12, 2015, based on assistance calls from other officers. Nero's attorney argued his client acted reasonably and followed his training.
Nero, who did not face manslaughter charges for Gray's death, was accused of putting Gray in a dangerous situation. Nero pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault and misconduct charges, both misdemeanors, related to Gray's arrest, and reckless endangerment and misconduct based on the way Gray was loaded into a police van.
"Today Judge Barry G. Williams found Officer Edward Nero not guilty of all criminal charges. This is our American system of justice and police officers must be afforded the same justice as every other citizen in this city, state, and country," Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. "Now that the criminal case has come to an end, Officer Nero will face an administrative review by the police department. We once again ask the citizens to be patient and to allow the entire process to come to a conclusion. 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 Caesar Goodson Jr. will be the next officer to stand trial, scheduled to begin June 6, over Gray's death. He was the driver of the van used to transport Gray. Goodson faces the most serious charge of second-degree depraved-heart murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
Nero was the second officer to go to trial after Officer William Porter's trial in December ended in a hung jury and mistrial. He is scheduled for a retrial Sept. 6.
Gray sustained a fatal spinal injury while being driven in a van after his arrest. His death sparked weeks of peaceful demonstrations, riots and looting in Baltimore, and amplified the Black Lives Matter movement nationwide. Prosecutors contend officers did not do enough to get Gray medical aid after he was injured while handcuffed but not buckled into a seat in the back of the van.
The prosecution argued Nero, who joined the force in 2012, did not use proper protocol and lacked legal justification to arrest Gray for failing to have probable cause. Prosecutors said Nero was aware of proper seat belt protocols sent by email from department heads to officers on April 9, 2015, for arrestees, but disregarded them. Nero's attorney said Nero was off work when the email was sent and that it was never mentioned in roll call.
Lt. Brian Rice's trial is scheduled to begin July 5, Officer Garrett Miller's will begin July 27 and Sgt. Alicia White's will begin Oct. 13. Officers face charges including involuntary manslaughter.