The verdict, which followed a five-day bench trial, is the first in what is perhaps the most closely watched case in America. Nero, 30, had faced misdemeanor charges of second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and two counts of misconduct in office. The 25-year-old Gray died last year of injuries sustained while riding in the back of a police transport van.
Prosecutors argued that Nero committed an assault by detaining Gray without justification, while the reckless endangerment charge related to Nero's role in putting Gray into the arrest wagon without buckling a seat belt. In closing arguments Thursday, Williams had skeptically questioned prosecutors about their theory of assault, a theory legal experts said was unprecedented.
In his ruling Monday, Williams said there were "no credible facts" to show that Nero was directly involved in Gray's arrest, and said testimony showed Nero's role in putting Gray in the van was minimized by the actions of others and not unreasonable given his training.
"Based on the evidence presented, this court finds that the state has not met its burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt all required elements of the crimes charged. Therefore, the verdict for each count is not guilty," Williams said.
Nero leaned forward after the verdict was read and wiped his eyes. He hugged his attorneys.
Marc Zayon and Allison Levine, the attorneys, said Nero and his family "are elated that this nightmare is finally over."
Unfortunately for Freddie Grays family, the nightmare never seems to end.
"The State's Attorney for Baltimore City rushed to charge him, as well as the other five officers, completely disregarding the facts of the case and the applicable law," the defense lawyers said in a statement. "His hope is that the state's attorney will re-evaluate the remaining five officers' cases and dismiss their charges. Like Officer Nero, these officers have done nothing wrong."
Four officers are charged in Gray's death, while charges against Nero and one other stemmed from his arrest and the failure to place him in a seat belt.
What I am about to right may sound like I am simplifying to some. But it seems elementary to me. If a man dies in police custody, shouldn't that make the police involved in placing the suspect under arrest responsible?