6 Baltimore Police Officers Indicted in Freddie Gray's Death
By Justin Fenton
A Baltimore grand jury returned indictments against the six officers charged earlier this month in the in-custody death of Freddie Gray, State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby announced Thursday.
Prosecutors presented evidence to the grand jury over the course of two weeks, Mosby said. Reckless endangerment charges were added against all six officers, while false imprisonment charges against three were removed. The remaining charges are largely the same ones her office filed May 1, following an independent investigation.
"As our investigation continued, additional information has been discovered, and as is often the case during an ongoing investigation, charges can and should be revised based upon the evidence," Mosby said at a news conference.
The case now moves to Baltimore Circuit Court, where the officers will be arraigned July 2. All remain free on bail.
Gray, 25, was arrested April 12 after running from officers patrolling the Gilmor Homes area of West Baltimore. His death seven days later led to widespread protests that gave way to citywide rioting, deployment of the National Guard and institution of a curfew.
Thrust into a national debate over cases of police brutality, Mosby stunned many when she moved swiftly to bring charges against the officers that included second-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter.
In high-profile, police-involved cases in Ferguson, Mo., and Staten Island, N.Y., prosecutors deferred to grand juries, which declined to bring charges.
Just five Baltimore City officers over the past three decades have faced criminal prosecution for on-duty actions that resulted in death, a Baltimore Sun investigation found. One was found guilty; that verdict was overturned on appeal.
Mosby's decision to charge brought a celebratory mood to continuing protests over Freddie Gray's death, but defense attorneys and the police union have been sharply critical of the prosecution. They have said the case was rushed and flawed, and they accused Mosby of impropriety.
Mosby's move to file criminal charges earlier this month set up Thursday's indictment as a largely procedural one. Typically, felony cases charged in District Court in Maryland move to Circuit Court through grand jury indictments. More serious cases are heard in Circuit Court.
Though it is unclear exactly how Gray suffered fatal injuries, including a partially severed spine, the medical examiner has ruled his death a homicide, and Mosby has accused each of the officers with misconduct for "failure to perform their duty regarding the safety of a prisoner."
Because grand jury proceedings are secret, it was unclear whether prosecutors requested the addition of reckless endangerment to the counts and removal of false imprisonment, or the grand jurors made the changes themselves.
Officer Caesar R. Goodson, the driver of the van used to transport Gray, remains charged with second-degree depraved-heart murder, the most serious charge among the six officers. He also is charged with manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of vehicular manslaughter and misconduct in office.
Three officers, Officer William G. Porter, Lt. Brian W. Rice, and Sgt. Alicia D. White, face involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault and misconduct in office charges. Officers Edward M. Nero and Garrett E. Miller are charged with second-degree assault and misconduct in office.
"Other than that, the substance is almost identical," said William H. "Billy" Murphy, an attorney for the Gray family. He added that the indictments are an important step in moving the case forward.
Marc Zayon, who represents Nero, said he was happy to see some counts against his client dropped, including false imprisonment and one of the second-degree assault charges.
"I'm quite confident he will be acquitted of the remaining charges at trial," he said.
Ivan Bates, one of White's attorneys, said he "looks forward to trying this case against Mrs. Mosby herself and proving that Sgt. Alicia White is innocent."
Miller's attorney, Catherine Flynn, said the defense would file a demand for discovery evidence on Friday and expects a response "in a timely fashion."
The attorneys have already filed several motions, including one granted by a judge that all grand jury proceedings be transcribed. In another motion, defense attorneys ask that Mosby recuse herself from the case, accusing her of having conflicts of interest.
They allege that she and her husband, Nick, a city councilman who represents the area where Gray was arrested, are personally benefiting from charges being filed. Mosby has been largely hailed in the national press, and the couple appeared on stage with the singer Prince at a concert at the Royal Farms Arena days after the charges were announced.
The state's attorney's office responded to that motion earlier this week, ridiculing the attorneys' arguments as "frivolous" and absurd and saying no conflicts exist.
Prosecutors, in turn, have requested a gag order that would bar the defense from making comments outside court filings and proceedings. A judge has yet to rule on that motion.
The April 12 arrest began when Rice made eye contact with Gray near the corner of North Avenue and Mount Street. Gray ran, and Rice, along with Miller and Nero, chased him.
Gray surrendered in the 1700 block of Presbury St., where prosecutors say "he was placed in a prone position, with his hands handcuffed behind his back."
It was there that Gray first asked for and was denied medical care, Mosby said.
"It was at this time that Mr. Gray indicated that he could not breathe and requested an inhaler to no avail," Mosby said May 1, reading from charging documents.
Onlookers took videos with their phones as Gray was loaded into a police van, which stopped four times for various reasons.
Goodson, who was driving the van, made his first stop on Baker Street, where Gray was removed by the three officers who had arrested him, Mosby said. They put flex cuffs on his wrists, leg shackles on his ankles and "completed required paperwork," Mosby said. Then they put Gray back into the wagon, on his stomach on the floor.
"Despite Mr. Gray's seriously deteriorating medical condition, no medical assistance was rendered or summoned for Mr. Gray at that time by any officer," Mosby said.
With details of how Gray died undisclosed, critics have focused on Mosby's contention that Gray was falsely arrested.
Some have questioned whether officers can be charged for failing to establish probable cause before making an arrest, and point to a Supreme Court decision that found officers need only reasonable suspicion -- a lower standard -- to stop someone fleeing from police in a "high-crime area."
The arresting officers said that after they stopped Gray, they found a knife with its blade folded into the handle. They charged him with having a switchblade, which is illegal in the city. Mosby said the knife was legal under Maryland law.
Prosecutors said in a court filing Monday that they believe Gray was illegally detained before officers knew there was a knife in his pocket. Having failed to establish probable cause, Mosby said, the officers' arrest of Gray was illegal.
In a statement, the Baltimore City police union said "all citizens are innocent until proven guilty, including these six officers."
The union "is asking for the community's support for the thousands of men and women of the Baltimore Police Department who protect and serve our neighborhoods every day. Together, we can move our city forward," it said.
Baltimore Sun reporters Alison Knezevich, Justin George and Colin Campbell contributed to this article.
What's next in the case:
--The officers will be arraigned July 2, at which point they can enter pleas.
--If entering a not guilty plea, attorneys for the officers would then likely make motions before a judge, asking, for example, for certain evidence to be excluded or for a change of venue.
--The officers would then have the option of a trial before a judge or jury if they do not wish to seek a plea deal.
--A judge is expected to rule on a request by prosecutors for a gag order. Defense attorneys also have filed a motion requesting that State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby recuse herself and dismissal of the criminal charges.
--The U.S. Department of Justice is continuing a broad civil rights investigation into Baltimore police.
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