This morning, Baltimore police Lieutenant Brian Rice was acquitted on three charges stemming from the death of Freddie Gray, making him the third officer to be cleared of all wrongdoing in as many months.
Rice had been charged with involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office (with a fourth charge dropped), but Judge Barry Williams ruled that Rice—whose role in the incident was throwing Gray in the back of a police van without securing him in a seatbelt—alleged crimes were not provable beyond a reasonable doubt.
The prosecution did not show Rice acted in a “grossly negligent manner,” required of manslaughter, he said. It did not show that Rice acted in an unreasonable way or ignored the substantial risk in placing Gray in a police van without a seat belt, required for reckless endangerment, he said. And, it did not show Rice acted “corruptly,” which is required for misconduct in office, he said.
Williams said a “mistake” or an “error in judgment” by Rice was not enough to prove the crimes alleged. He also briefly noted the difference between criminal negligence and civil negligence, an apparent nod to the fact that the city previously negotiated with Gray’s family attorney, William H. “Billy” Murphy, on the civil side and agreed to pay the family $6.4 million.
Rice’s acquittal by Williams comes in the wake of the judge acquitting officers Cesar Goodson Jr. and Edward Nero. A fourth officer, William Porter, chose to have a jury trial, which ended in a mistrial in December. As the Baltimore Sun points out, with Williams finding three officers not guilty on all charges, the city will now face mounting pressure to drop charges against the two officers—Garrett Miller and Alicia White—who have yet to be tried, as well as Porter, who is scheduled to be retried in September.
Rice, who was hired by the Baltimore Police Department in 1997 and promoted to lieutenant in 2011, was the highest ranking officer to be charged.