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Disciplinary Panel Clears Driver Of Police Van In Freddie Gray Case

REUTERS/Bryan Woolston

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Anders Hagstrom Justice Reporter

A police disciplinary panel on Tuesday acquitted the Baltimore police officer who drove the van in which Freddie Gray had his spine severed.

The three-member police panel cleared officer Caesar Goodson Jr. of 21 administrative charges relating to Gray’s 2015 fatal injury while in police custody, the Associated Press reported. A jury had already acquitted Goodson of manslaughter in criminal court in 2016, and many who thought Gray’s death was unjust saw the internal disciplinary board as a last chance to hold Goodson accountable. He could have faced penalties up to and including termination if the panel convicted him.

Prosecutors alleged that Goodson, a black man, intentionally gave Gray, also black, a “rough ride” and neglected to secure the suspect with a seat belt. Gray somehow received a spinal cord injury during the ride and died a week later in a city hospital, sparking weeks of protests.

Goodson faced the most serious charges of the six officers involved in Gray’s death, and his acquittal signaled that none of the officers were likely to be convicted in criminal court. His administrative acquittal is a clear statement that none of the other officers are likely to face penalties.

Department lawyer Neil Duke had argued the panel should fire Goodson for his neglect of duty, but Attorney Thomas Tompsett Jr., Goodson’s representative, argued otherwise.

“Not every accident has a villain, but Mr. Duke would have you believe that’s the case,” he said, going on to claim that Duke was attempting to throw his client under “a bus without any evidence.”

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