We’ve been expecting this news for a while and now it’s official. The bench trial for Baltimore Police Officer Edward Nero – he of the Freddie Gray case – has come to a close and Nero was found not guilty on all charges. NBC News has the breaking story with ongoing updates
One of the six officers charged in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray was found not guilty on all counts in Baltimore on Monday.
Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams cleared Officer Edward Nero of charges of assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.
Nero, 30, was one of two officers who initially made eye contact with Gray before his arrest. Gray, 25, died on April 19, 2015, a week after his neck was broken while he was transported in a police van — shackled and handcuffed, but without a seat belt.
Baltimore police officer Edward Nero arrives at the Baltimore courthouse for his trial this month. AP
Nero faced charges of assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.
When I discussed this case last week I predicted that this was going to be the likely outcome. Nero’s attorneys wisely chose to go with a bench trial rather than taking their chances with a jury pool drawn from a highly agitated community steeped in attacks on the police coming from both the media and City Hall. The judge was the final arbiter here and heard all of the evidence which showed that Nero was only tangentially involved in the arrest and, in fact, only came in physical contact with Freddie Gray once during the entire arrest procedure. It’s not terribly shocking that the charges would fall through.
In an apparent effort to appease the public, City Hall is putting out the word that Nero may have been found not guilty in court, but he will still face internal review at the police department and could be subject to some form of sanctions or discipline there.
The long term fallout from this decision will once again fall on the shoulders of outgoing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and prosecutor Marilyn Mosby. The Mayor’s time on the public stage is pretty much done anyway, but Mosby clearly has been eying bigger things in her future. Her handling of this case from day one, however, has been nothing short of a catastrophe. Rushing to bring charges against all of the officers and joining the mayor in promising “Justice for Freddie Gray” rather than simply justice for all involved has further inflamed tensions around Charm City and she helped to build up expectations that the officers were all guilty before they’d had their day in court. Now, with one hung jury and one not guilty finding, her case is falling apart on all sides. There are several more trials to come and she may still find one or more where she can get a conviction on something, but the raw, partisan political nature of this fishing expedition has been exposed.
But those, as I said, are the long term implications and they are primarily political. Of more concern is the short term reaction from the public. The moment the verdict was announced, MSNBC was on the air with various “civic leaders” who were already condemning the judge, along with the justice system in general and claiming that there had been no justice delivered. Guards were escorting Nero out of the courthouse under protection because of the obvious concerns over violence. We all saw what happened last time the city went over the edge because of this case and we can only hope that Baltimore doesn’t once again go up in flames after the sun goes down.