BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A police disciplinary panel has announced that the driver of the van that transported Freddie Gray before his April 2015 death has been found not guilty on all charges he faced.
Gray died a week after his arrest from a spinal cord injury he suffered during the van ride, prompting riots in Baltimore.
Officer Caesar Goodson, who drove the van in which Gray was transported, had been facing firing for his role in Gray’s arrest after being accused of breaking police rules during the arrest.
One charge was dismissed against Goodson, and he was found not guilty on the other 21 charges.
After six days of the disciplinary trial, the three-member board said Tuesday that Goodson did not violate any police department policies.
Most of the charges against Goodson were from a police policy issued just days before Gray’s arrest, which required officers to seat belt prisoners.
The panel consisted of two Baltimore police officers and an outside chair.
Goodson was the first of three officers facing firing to go to administrative trial. The next administrative trial is scheduled to start Monday.
Department lawyer Neil Duke argued that Goodson should have been fired for failing to follow policy by not buckling Gray into a seatbelt and failing to get him medical attention.
“He had a murder charge over his head. He’s had this over his head. He’s a quiet man. He’s a hardworking man. He’s just happy to be able to resume his life,” said defense attorney Sean Malone.
Ducking out of the back door and into a waiting car, Goodson dodged cameras and the final wave of possible punishment for his role in Gray’s arrest.
None of the six officers charged criminally for their roles in Gray’s arrest were convicted. In reforms made as a result of Gray’s death, state lawmakers opened police disciplinary hearings to the public, hoping to improve transparency when departments seek to hold officers accountable.
Malone says the department should look at the outcome of this case to decide whether it pursues others.
“I think the department has an obligation to look at the remaining charges with these officers and determine if they want to go forward based on the evidence. It simply has not been put forward,” he said.
Both Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis and the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police released statements after the ruling.
“I remain committed to the process as established by the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (LEOBR),” Davis said. “Two administrative hearing boards remain, and we will stay the course for the remainder of this process. Freddie Gray died in police custody. My thoughts and prayers remain with the Gray family. We will continue to make improvements within our organization to meet the expectations of constitutional policing demanded by our community.”
The FOP statement, signed by President Gene S. Ryan, reads:
“What happened to Freddie Gray on April 12, 2015 was an extremely unfortunate incident. No member of the Baltimore Police Department intentionally injured or caused Freddie Gray’s death. It was an unfortunate accident.
In the 31 months that have past, Officer Goodson has been found not guilty in his criminal case, the U.S. Department of Jusitce found no evidence to charge him with a federal crime and the Baltimore Police Department, Administrative Hearing Board has found him not guilty of all administrative charges.
Officer Goodson can now turn the page on from this chapter in his life and continue his career with the Baltimore Police Department.”
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh released the following statement after Tuesday’s decision:
“The verdict in the Caesar Goodson administrative hearing is the first of three pending trials and to offer any extensive comments would be inappropriate until the process is completed. I look forward to participating in the ongoing discussions about the LEOBR in Annapolis during the upcoming legislative session.”