Six Baltimore police officers who were charged earlier this month have been indicted by a grand jury for their alleged roles in connection with the death of an arrestee.
In a hastily arranged press conference held Thursday evening, Maryland State Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced the grand jury had indicted Lt. Brian Rice, Sgt. Alicia White and Officers Caesar Goodson, Jr., William Porter, Edward Nero and Garrett Miller for the arrest of 25-year-old Baltimore resident Freddie Gray.
Gray was arrested following a brief police pursuit while walking in a Baltimore housing project on April 12. Police attempted to stop him as he walked through a neighborhood known for crime and drug sales and arrested him after they claimed to have located him in possession of an illegal switchblade.
Gray was transported to a local jail via a police van, where he was apparently not secured in the vehicle and at one point was placed in leg irons. Paramedics were called to the West District police station after officers located an unresponsive Gray in the back of the van. He was admitted to a nearby hospital where he remained in a coma until his death one week later.
At a press conference on May 1 in which Mosby announced the original charges against the officers, the state’s attorney said that the switchblade Gray was said to have been carrying was actually a spring-loaded knife that was entirely legal under Maryland law. Mosby asserted Gray’s possession of the knife was one of several pieces of evidence that suggested the officers had carried out an illegal arrest, which allegedly contributed to his death.
“Additional information was discovered, and, as is often the case during an ongoing investigation, charges can and should be revised based on the evidence,” Mosby told reporters on Thursday. She did not explain what additional evidence led the grand jury to drop some charges while adding on others, although the dropped charge of false imprisonment could lend credibility to some arguments that the knife Gray possessed was, in fact, unlawful.
Lt. Rice and Officers Nero and Miller, the officers who chased and arrested Gray, were charged with second degree assault, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. The cumulative charges against the officers carry a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Rice was also charged with involuntary manslaughter, which carries an additional maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Sgt. White, who checked in on Gray during one of the four times the police van stopped while en route to the station, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, misconduct in office and second degree assault. Porter, an officer who rode in the van with Goodson and others, received the same charges. Both officers face a maximum of 25 years in prison.
Goodson, the police van’s driver, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, depraved heart murder, second degree assault, manslaughter by vehicle, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. The officer’s charges carry a maximum sentence of 68 years in prison.
Lawyers who have been assigned to represent the officers have asked Mosby to step aside from the prosecution or drop the charges against the officers altogether. The attorneys have alleged Mosby filed the charges during a time of civil unrest in the city as a political ploy due to her connections to some of those involved in the case; Mosby is married to the city councilman who serves the district where Gray was arrested, according to a report by NBC News.
The Fraternal Order of Police, a law enforcement interest group in which several of the charged officers are members, also criticized the prosecution due to the “lead prosecutor’s connections with members of the local media.”
That lead prosecutor is Janice Bledsoe, who is said to be in a relationship with WBAL-TV investigative reporter Jayne Miller. The journalist had been covering Gray’s arrest and subsequent death since early April.
Four days after the charges were filed against the officers, Miller told a local radio show that she would “step away” from covering the Gray case because of her “personal connection to one of the prosecutors” in order to avoid any conflict of interest. She later told the Baltimore Sun newspaper that removing herself from covering Gray’s death was “always our plan” at WBAL once the case moved toward litigation.
The officers are scheduled to be arraigned on the new charges on July 2. All officers have posted bond and are on pre-trial release.
Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.