BALTIMORE — A Baltimore judge today refused to dismiss charges against six police officers in connection with the death of a black man who had been seriously injured while in custody. The judge also refused to remove the prosecutor in the case that sparked riots in Baltimore last spring.
During a pretrial hearing, Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams denied a defence motion for the charges to be dropped against the officers in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who endured a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody on April 12 and died a week later. Gray’s death sparked protests, rioting and unrest that lasted for days.
Defence attorneys had sought to drop the charges — which range from second-degree assault to second-degree murder — because of prosecutorial misconduct on the part of State Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Williams, however, said that while Mosby’s public comments regarding initial statements made by the officers to investigators were “troubling”, they were not likely to prejudice a jury.
Andrew Graham, an attorney representing Officer Caesar Goodson, had unsuccessfully argued that Mosby’s comments after filing charges against the officers were “reckless and unprofessional”, and violated the rules of conduct. He likened Mosby’s comments on the case to a “pep rally calling for payback”.
Williams also ruled against another defence motion, one that sought to have Mosby removed from the case due to what the defence contended were conflicts of interest.
He called the assertion that Mosby’s judgement was impacted by the fact that her husband Nick Mosby was a councilman in a district that experienced a disproportionate amount of violence “troubling and condescending”.
“Being married to a councilman is not a reason for recusal,” he said.
Williams added that allegations of prosecutorial misconduct must be addressed by the Attorney Grievance Commission.
Officers Edward Nero, Garrett Miller, William Porter and Goodson, as well as Lieutenant Brian Rice and Sergeant Alicia White, face charges in Gray’s death. They did not attend the hearing.
All the officers face second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office charges. Rice, Porter and White also face manslaughter charges, and Goodson faces an additional charge of second-degree murder.
Dozens of protesters made their way to the Inner Harbour before the pretrial hearing began. Dozens of officers responded and cleared protesters from the streets to keep traffic moving at the end of the morning rush hour.
Interim Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis told WBAL Radio that a protester had “kicked a police officer in the face, and that’s unacceptable”.
Police spokesman T.J. Smith said charges are being filed against the man. He did not specify what the charges would be. The man was arrested for blocking the road and ignoring warnings to return to sidewalk, according to a police news release.
The man arrested was identified by witnesses as Kwame Rose, a well-known local activist.