Fred­die Gray case

Justice Dept. said it found ‘in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence’ to pur­sue the case fur­ther

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY MATT ZAPO­TO­SKY, KEITH L. ALEXAN­DER AND PETER HER­MANN

The of­fi­cers in­volved in his death will not face U.S. civil rights charges.

The Justice Depart­ment has de­cided not to bring civil rights charges against the of­fi­cers in­volved in the death of Fred­die Gray, whose 2015 death in po­lice cus­tody sparked ri­ots and wide­spread anger in Bal­ti­more, author­i­ties said Tues­day.

In a news re­lease, the Justice Depart­ment said its in­ves­ti­ga­tion had found “in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence” to sup­port charges in the case, and pointed to the high bar pros­e­cu­tors would have had to meet to prove fed­eral charges.

“It is not enough to show that the of­fi­cer made a mis­take, acted neg­li­gently, acted by ac­ci­dent, or even ex­er­cised bad judg­ment,” the Justice Depart­ment said. “Although Gray’s death is un­de­ni­ably tragic, the ev­i­dence in this case is in­suf­fi­cient to meet th­ese sub­stan­tial ev­i­den­tiary re­quire­ments.”

The de­ci­sion likely fore­closes any chance that the of­fi­cers in­volved in Gray’s high- pro­file death will face crim­i­nal con­se­quences, though the news is not par­tic­u­larly sur­pris­ing. Af­ter a mis­trial and three ac­quit­tals, Bal­ti­more’s top prose­cu­tor had an­nounced she was end­ing lo­cal author­i­ties’ ef­fort to pros­e­cute the of­fi­cers, be­cause win­ning a con­vic­tion had proved too dif­fi­cult.

An at­tor­ney for Gray’s fam­ily de­clined to com­ment. The de­vel­op­ment was first re­ported by the Bal­ti­more Sun.

Gray, 25, was ar­rested in West Bal­ti­more the morn­ing of April 12, 2015, then placed in the back of a po­lice van with his hands cuffed be­hind his back and his legs shack­led. As he was be­ing trans­ported, he suf­fered a se­vere neck in­jury and lost con­scious­ness. He died in the hos­pi­tal about a week later.

The death sparked vi­o­lent protests in Bal­ti­more, and Bal­ti­more State’s At­tor­ney Mar­i­lyn Mosby ul­ti­mately charged six of­fi­cers in­volved in han­dling Gray with var­i­ous state crimes. Mean­while, the Justice Depart­ment launched its own crim­i­nal, civil rights in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Gray’s death, as well as a broader probe of pos­si­ble sys­temic vi­o­la­tions in the Bal­ti­more Po­lice Depart­ment.

Michael Davey, who rep­re­sents Lt. Brian Rice, the high­est-rank­ing of­fi­cer in­volved in Gray’s ar­rest, said “We’re very pleased that the Depart­ment of Justice has come to the con­clu­sion they did.” He said he only wished the lo­cal prose­cu­tor had reached the same de­termi-

na­tion “prior to any of the crim­i­nal charges be­ing placed.”

Rice, along with Of­fi­cers Cae­sar Good­son Jr., Wil­liam Porter, Ed­ward Nero, Gar­rett Miller and Sgt. Ali­cia White, were charged with var­i­ous of­fenses in Gray’s death, in­clud­ing man­slaugh­ter, as­sault and reck­less en­dan­ger­ment. Good­son, who drove the van, was the sole of­fi­cer charged with mur­der.

Mosby, on July 27, 2016, dropped crim­i­nal charges against White, Miller and Porter. Three other of­fi­cers — Good­son, Rice and Nero — were found not guilty af­ter sep­a­rate tri­als. Porter had gone to trial once, but the pro­ceed­ing ended in a mis­trial.

The Justice Depart­ment said it had con­ducted a com­pre­hen­sive, in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the events, re­view­ing sur­veil­lance footage, wit­ness in­ter­views, med­i­cal re­ports and other ma­te­ri­als. Pros­e­cu­tors, the Justice Depart­ment said, con­sid­ered sev­eral dif­fer­ent le­gal vi­o­la­tions, “in­clud­ing the­o­ries of false ar­rest, ex­ces­sive force, and de­lib­er­ate in­dif­fer­ence to the risk of se­ri­ous harm to Gray.”

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­cluded an as­sess­ment of whether Gray should have been ar­rested in the first place, whether Good­son gave Gray a “rough ride” and an anal­y­sis of of­fi­cers’ fail­ure to seat­belt Gray, among many other things.

Even where pros­e­cu­tors found some fault — Good­son, for ex­am­ple, made a wide right turn and crossed a dou­ble yel­low line, and Gray was not buck­led in per depart­ment pol­icy — they could not sub­stan­ti­ate crim­i­nal wrong­do­ing, the Justice Depart­ment said. The depart­ment said ev­i­dence “over­whelm­ingly con­tra­dicted re­ports from some civil­ian wit­nesses that Gray was either tased or beaten by the of­fi­cers.”

The of­fi­cers could still face pro­fes­sional reper­cus­sions. Davey, the at­tor­ney who rep­re­sents Rice, said in­ter­nal dis­ci­plinary hear­ings are sched­uled to be­gin for five of the six of­fi­cers in Oc­to­ber. Porter is not fac­ing any in­ter­nal charges. The hear­ings are pub­lic.

The Bal­ti­more depart­ment, too, is still broadly work­ing to im­ple­ment changes. The Justice Depart­ment dur­ing the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion had found that the Bal­ti­more po­lice of­fi­cers used ex­ces­sive force and dis­pro­por­tion­ately stopped African Amer­i­cans, and ul­ti­mately reached an agree­ment with the city to institute new poli­cies.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Jeff Ses­sions, though, has taken a markedly dif­fer­ent stance on po­lice prac­tices than his pre­de­ces­sors, and he has been par­tic­u­larly crit­i­cal of broad, court-en­force­able agree­ments to man­date po­lice de­part­ments un­dergo change. His Justice Depart­ment tried to de­lay the re­form agree­ment in Bal­ti­more, though a judge ul­ti­mately ap­proved it over fed­eral author­i­ties’ ob­jec­tion.

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