BALTIMORE – A judge is expected Monday to hand down his verdict in the case of a Baltimore police officer charged in the arrest and subsequent death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man.
Officer Edward Nero faces assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment charges. Prosecutors say the 30-year-old unlawfully arrested Gray without probable cause and was negligent when he didn't buckle the prisoner into a seat belt.
Nero opted for a bench trial rather than a jury trial. Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams is expected to announce his verdict Monday. The assault charge carries a maximum of 10 years in prison and reckless endangerment carries a penalty of five years. There is no maximum for misconduct.
Gray died April 19, 2015, a week after his neck was broken in the back of a police transport van while he was handcuffed and shackled but left unrestrained by a seat belt.
His death set off more than a week of protests followed by looting, rioting and arson that prompted a citywide curfew. His name became a rallying cry in the growing national conversation about the treatment of black men by police officers.
Shortly after Gray's death, State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged six officers. Three of them are black; Nero and two others are white.
Nero's attorney argues that his client didn't arrest Gray and that it is the police van driver's responsibility to buckle in detainees. The defense argued that the officers who responded that day acted responsibly, and called witnesses to bolster their argument that any reasonable officer in Nero's position would have made the same decisions.
The defense also sought to convince the judge that the department's order requiring that all inmates be strapped in is more suggestion than rule because officers are expected to act with discretion based on the circumstances of each situation.
Nero is the second officer to stand trial. Officer William Porter's manslaughter trial ended with a hung jury.