Driver in Freddie Gray case cleared of charges

By CATHERINE PALMER | November 9, 2017

Officer Caesar Goodson, Jr., the driver of the van in which Freddie Gray sustained a fatal spinal cord injury, was cleared Tuesday of all administrative charges brought against him by the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) in connection with Gray’s 2015 arrest and subsequent death.

Goodson faced 21 charges, including neglecting his duty by not securing Gray in the van or complying with Gray’s request for medical attention, as well as making false statements to investigators and inadequately reporting his actions on the day of Gray’s arrest. Goodson would have been up for termination had he been found guilty of any of the charges.

The trial board was composed of fellow officers, two from the BPD and one from Prince George’s County. They unanimously agreed with the argument presented by defense attorneys Sean Malone and Thomas Tompsett Jr.

According to The Baltimore Sun, Goodson’s lawyers asserted that the BPD had a systemic issue of not adequately training officers to handle non-compliant arrestees.

They also argued Goodson had looked to his superiors and fellow officers, who’d put Gray in the van, to judge whether Gray needed to be buckled in.

On the day of his April 2015 arrest, Gray was put inside with his hands cuffed behind his back, but he was not buckled into his seat — a violation of a new BPD policy that had gone into effect a few days before his arrest.

Goodson reported back in 2015 that he had heard Gray acting angry in the back of the van.

A few seconds later, a police unit had asked Goodson to pull over so that paperwork could be completed. While the van was stopped, Gray was taken out, placed in leg irons and put back into the van.

Goodson began driving again but then stopped a second time because Gray was on the floor of the van. Gray was picked up and put back in his seat, but was not strapped in.

About thirty minutes later, after picking up another prisoner who was separated from Gray by a metal barrier, the van arrived at the Western District police station.

Gray was not breathing and a medic was then called. Gray died one week later from a severe spinal cord injury. His death prompted more than a week of both peaceful and violent demonstrations that garnered national attention.

Having been cleared of all charges, Goodson plans to return to active duty. He was suspended without pay when he was criminally charged in connection with Gray’s death by State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

Of the six officers charged, Goodson faced the most severe indictment: second-degree depraved-heart murder.

When he was acquitted on all counts in June 2016, he was put back on the payroll and given more than $80,000 in back pay, according to The Sun. His suspension continued until the trial board’s ruling.

Goodson was the first officer to go through a disciplinary trial in connection with Gray’s death.

The trial of Lieutenant Brian Rice is set to begin Monday and that of Sergeant Alicia White on Dec. 5. Both will go before boards composed of different officers from those who heard Goodson’s case.

Officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero chose to accept internal discipline last month in lieu of going before trial boards and are back on active duty, according to The Sun.

Rice and Nero were previously acquitted of criminal charges related to Gray’s death, and charges were dropped against Miller and White as well as Officer William Porter.

Porter is the only officer who has not faced internal discipline.

The officers were also investigated by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, but the department announced last month that charges would not be filed.

So far, none of the officers have been held in any way responsible for Gray’s death. However, Baltimore City accepted civil liability in Gray’s arrest and death in 2015 and pledged to pay $6.4 million to Gray’s family.

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