Baltimore Police Department, Caesar Goodson, Detective Ryan Diener, Edward Nero, Freddie Gray, Garrett Miller, Judge Barry Williams, Major Rosa Guixens, Major Steve Hohman, Marilyn Mosby, Michael Brown, NAACP, Sean Malone, Trayvon Martin
It is time, gentle readers, for another episode in what appears to be a never-ending case. I say “never ending” not because various hearings and actions relating to the case will never end, but because the Freddie Gray incident, like the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases, has become part of America’s mythos. We will never hear the end of them, and the truth will be known only by people like you gentle readers, taking the time to do a bit of honest research. The first portion, from The Baltimore Sun:
Two Baltimore police officers have accepted ‘minor disciplinary action’ for their involvement in the 2015 arrest of Freddie Gray rather than argue their cases before departmental trial boards, a police union attorney confirmed Tuesday. [skip]
Officers Garrett Miller and Edward Nero ‘believe they did not violate any of the policies, procedures or practices of the Baltimore Police Department’ but ‘accepted the disciplinary action to move on from this unfortunate incident and continue their careers,’ said attorney Michael Davey, with the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 3.
‘The most important factor in deciding to accept the disciplinary action was to ensure they continue their employment with the Baltimore Police Department so they can support themselves and their families,’ Davey said.
Nero and Miller are correct: they did nothing wrong. I suspect the BPD made it known to them if they accepted a minor punishment, the whole thing would be behind them; they might have a career. I suspect they went along for that reason, and to get on with their lives. It was on May 23, 2016 that Judge Barry Williams acquitted Nero of all charges.
And on July 27, 2016, the day set aside for initial motions in the trial of Miller, Baltimore Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced, in a bitter statement, that all remaining charges against the officers—including Miller–would be dropped. She had no choice; the charges should never have been brought, and her losses at trial were not only brutally embarrassing, but self-inflicted. A first year law student should have known better.
The departmental trial of Officer Caesar Goodson, the driver of the van that transported Freddie Gray, ended, just as his criminal trial ended, in complete acquittal. Goodson was acquitted on June 23, 2016.
Baltimore Police Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. was found not guilty Tuesday of all 21 administrative charges against him in the 2015 arrest and death of Freddie Gray.
The verdict absolves Goodson once and for all in the case, and allows him to continue his career on the city police force.
Goodson, 48, the driver of the police van in which Gray was found with severe spinal cord injuries in April 2015, was charged with neglecting his duty by failing to ensure Gray’s safety by securing him in a seat belt or calling a medic when he requested one. He was also charged with making false statements to investigators.
Goodson faced possible termination if any of the charges against him had been sustained.
In response to the specious argument that we will never know what happened to Freddie Gray, I earlier wrote:
And we do know what happened, as closely as it is possible to know: Freddie Gray, under the influence of two distinct classes of illegal drugs, and upset over being arrested, stood up while the van was moving and fell, fatally injuring himself. It was an accident, not a crime.
The three-officer board that unanimously acquitted him was comprised of officers from Prince George’s County and Baltimore. That no citizen was on the board is significant. This is an issue social justice warriors have been pushing for years, yet the evidence is clear such people are fundamentally incapable of fairly judging such issues on the evidence.
Why was Goodson unanimously acquitted? The evidence and circumstances that failed so badly during the criminal trial were the same evidence and circumstances used in the departmental trial. Testimony like this was devastating to the BPD case:
Under questioning by Goodson attorney Sean Malone, Detective. Sgt. Thomas Curtis acknowledged that he hadn’t followed up with key witnesses about alleged false statements by Goodson, despite the fact that the allegation, if sustained at the trial, would lead to the officer’s firing.
Malone also got Curtis to acknowledge that when compiling his file for the outside committee that determined what policy violations Goodson would be charged with, he had failed to include evidence beneficial to Goodson, as required under Maryland law, leaving the charging panel with an incomplete understanding of what happened.
In cross-examining witnesses and in arguments Wednesday asking for the case to be dismissed, Goodson’s defense contended that the policy requiring detainees be secured with seat belts only went into effect a few days before Gray’s arrest, and that Goodson and his fellow officers were unaware of it.
The previous policy allowed officers to use discretion when determining whether to secure a detainee in a seat belt, particularly when they felt that doing so would put their own safety at risk — one of Goodson’s concerns in Gray’s arrest, his defense argued.
Sean Malone, Goodson’s attorney, said that multiple officers who took the stand made it clear that the department had never informed them of the policy change in the days before Gray’s arrest, which meant ‘the duty was breached at a higher level,’ not by Goodson.
Defense attorneys Sean Malone and Thomas Tompsett Jr. called a police training academy officer who testified that the department had no training specifically for wagon drivers at the time of Gray’s arrest.
They called another officer, who worked for then-Commissioner Anthony Batts. Lt. Derek Loeffler testified that commanders were aware of the dangers the vans posed to detainees, and were in discussions about how to make improvements.
As I’ve previously noted, the BPD seatbelt rule is a failure of administrators to recognize reality. Any arrestee of normal flexibility can easily open seatbelt buckles at will. They are no guarantee an arrestee will stay put, and certainly not a foolproof safety measure. The Defense also presented compelling evidence from a solid medical witness that Gray’s death was an accident, just as Baltimore’s medical examiner ruled until Mosby convinced her otherwise.
In paramilitary organizations, officers cannot be held responsible for enforcing policies about which they have never been informed. And even though social justice demanded conviction regardless of the facts, the rule of law held yet again.
That the officers judging Goodson were all higher ranking is no small matter. Such officers, Prince George’s County Police Maj. Rosa Guixens, Baltimore Police Maj. Steve Hohman and Baltimore Police Detective Ryan Diener, both Majors long removed from actual law enforcement and concerned mostly with administrative issues, often tend to ignore the realities of law enforcement and judge on administrative goals and sensibilities. That they unanimously cleared Goodson strongly suggests the evidence of his innocence was so strong—as it was in the criminal trial—they had no other choice. This does not, for a moment, bode well for the upcoming trials of Lt. Rice (Nov. 13) and Sgt. White (Dec. 5) who had far less direct contact with Gray than Goodson or the other officers. In fact, neither had any real physical contact with Gray at any point. These trials will be somewhat different in that the BPD will certainly be arguing failure to properly supervise, but there was no evidence of that in Rice’s criminal trial. Charges were dropped against White before her trial.
It should be noted that departmental trials against officers in Baltimore are anything but biased toward the police:
In recent years, the city’s trial boards have found more officers guilty than not. In 2016, every officer who went before a trial board was found guilty of at least one charge.
This is not evidence that such trial boards are perfectly organized and run, but it is surely damaging to any contention they are set up to universally acquit, or even favor, police officers. In the article on Goodson’s acquittal, I wrote:
Judge Williams’ rulings have eviscerated–thankfully–every prosecution theory. Remember that the evidence for each trial against each officer is identical, and so are the witnesses. He has ruled there was no rough ride. He has ruled that no one could have determined Gray was in medical distress until the 6th and final stop at the booking facility. Only then could the officers possibly have realized that Gray needed emergency medical care, and when they did, they immediately summoned it. And he has ruled that even if an officer did fail to use a seatbelt, it was not the cause of Gray’s death, and it was not a crime. Officers retain discretion in such matters.
This is an important decision. If police policies, made by police administrators, are crimes, Judge Williams could have, by the stroke of a pen, made police administrators unelected, unaccountable, legislators. Officers could and would be prosecuted for using what tiny discretion they retained. During my police days, I would surely have gone to the pen for a three strikes violation for failing to wear my idiotic police hat.
I ended thus:
And so the battle between social justice and the rule of law continues, and Caesar Goodson–and the rest–is still caught up in it. There will be no winners, particularly not the poor, black residents of Baltimore.
And so it is. The murder rate is skyrocketing, gangs of juvenile thugs infest the streets, randomly beating innocents of all ages, drug dealing is rampant, the BPD is having enormous trouble recruiting qualified police applicants, and the wonders of progressivism manifest unabated.
As one might imagine, Goodson and his family, as well as BPD officers, are pleased with the verdict:
Tuesday’s verdict did not sit well with advocates of police reform. Monique Dixon, deputy director of policy at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, called the decision ‘appalling, yet predictable’ from a panel composed entirely of police officers.
‘As long as the city lets law enforcement police themselves in lieu of meaningful civilian oversight, these proceedings will not result in accountability and will fail to strengthen community trust,’ Dixon said in a statement. ‘These hearings are hollow unless they are fundamentally altered to incorporate resident input, transparency, and accountability.
And in yet another statement proving Baltimore Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby has learned nothing at all:
Mosby, who has lamented her inability to convict Goodson criminally, said Tuesday that the outcome in his administrative case was also ‘disappointing.’ But she said Baltimore residents ‘must not forget the significant progress our city has made towards criminal justice reform and police accountability’ since Gray’s death.’ [skip]
‘Our focus must remain on eliminating the division between the public and law enforcement,” Mosby said. ‘And my office is committed to rebuilding that trust within the criminal justice system.
Nothing rebuilds that sort of trust quite like persecuting innocent police officers, while encouraging the public to think they’re guilty, and complaining when there is insufficient evidence to punish them.
It may be useful to review the Freddie Gray case archive to see just how little Rice and White had to do with Gray. The Democrat/social justice establishment of Baltimore, which includes the highest ranks of the Police Department, will do its best to get a pound of flesh, but evidence of Rice and White’s wrongdoing will be as elusive as was Goodson’s. The evidence and circumstances are the same, but the connection to Gray, miniscule. It is, however, a certainty, that this Javert-like quest will continue to damage the city and people social justice idiots so claim to champion.