DOJ Clears ‘Baltimore Six’ Of Criminal Wrongdoing
Baltimore, MD – The Department of Justice announced on Tuesday, September 12, that it will not be bringing federal charges against the six Baltimore police officers involved in the arrest and in-custody death of Freddie Gray.
The six officers are Lieutenant Brian Rice, Sergeant Alicia White, Officer Caesar Goodson, Officer Edward Nero, Officer Garrett Miller, and Officer William Porter, according to The New York Times.
The DOJ’s announcement came after the Baltimore Police Department’s announcement that all of the officers except Officer Porter will face public trial boards, which are scheduled to begin on October 30. Officer Porter was not charged administratively.
The DOJ investigation focused on whether federal officers could determine that the officers had violated Gray’s civil rights. Tuesday’s decision showed that they couldn’t, according to NBC News.
In a press release, the DOJ said, “After an extensive review of this tragic event, conducted by career prosecutors and investigators, the Justice Department concluded that the evidence is insufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that” the officers ‘willfully violated Gray’s civil rights’.”
“Gray’s unprovoked flight from Lieutenant Rice, which occurred in an area known for drug sales, gave the officers reasonable suspicion to briefly detain him. Miller’s discovery of a knife that appeared to be an illegal switchblade supplied probable cause to arrest Gray,” the DOJ report says.
“The evidence in this matter overwhelmingly contradicted reports from some civilian witnesses that Gray was either tased or beaten by the officers.”
The DOJ’s decision means that the officers are criminally cleared, and will not be held criminally charged again for Gray’s death.
Attorneys for the officers expressed relief over the announcement. Michael Belsky, Lieutenant Rice’s attorney, said, “These cases were never criminal and should never have been charged as such.”
There were actually two investigations by the DOJ, one of the officers, and one of the department. The investigation of the Baltimore Police Department “found a pattern of unconstitutional stops, searches and arrests of black residents, and the use of unnecessary force against them”.
In January, the city of Baltimore agreed to make sweeping changes to its police department in order to avoid a federal lawsuit. The deal was made just as President Trump was about to take office, after the Trump administration had indicated a more “hands-off” approach to such arrangements.
Joe Murtha, Officer Porter’s attorney, said he was “relieved” when the DOJ “…determined that there wasn’t a basis to move forward with the civil rights action.” He said “it was a good decision.”
Five of the six officers have filed a lawsuit against Marilyn Mosby and Assistant Sheriff Samuel Cogen for malicious prosecution. Cogen wrote the statements of probable cause against the officers at a time when no probable cause appeared to exist. The DOJ’s investigation will most likely give even more credence to the officers’ lawsuit.
After Gray’s in-custody death, all six officers were criminally charged by State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
The six officers had charges ranging from second-degree depraved-heart murder to manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office. The most severe charges centered around the officers failing to seatbelt Gray in the back of the transport van, which is likely the policy violation which Officer Caesar Goodson, Lt. Brian Rice, and Sgt Alicia White are set to be fired for.
“To the extent that the officers violated department policy in failing to seatbelt Gray, those failures suggest civil negligence rather than the high standard of deliberate indifference,” the DOJ said in its report.
The state’s entire criminal case was built on the theory that officers could not assist each other with any part of an arrest without fully reviewing the other officer’s evidence and probable cause and making their own independent determination that the arrest was lawful. Impractical at any time, impossible with a violent or resisting suspect.
Lieutenant Rice, Officer Nero, and Officer Goodson were acquitted by a judge during bench trials last year. The remaining charges against Baltimore Police Officers Porter and Miller, and Sergeant White were then dropped by Mosby when it was obvious that she didn’t actually have a valid case against the officers.