Baltimore, MD – The Baltimore police officer who was driving the van that transported Freddie Gray was exonerated Tuesday.
Gray, 25, died in police custody in April of 2015, sparking riots that lasted for days and destroyed entire sections of the city.
The department moved to fire Officer Goodson, but he opted to go to a disciplinary panel to make a final decision rather than accept termination.
When the panel concluded, it found Officer Goodson not guilty on all 21 administrative charges against him.
The panel, made up of two law enforcement officers and one outside chairperson, handed down the verdict around 1 pm on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.
Officer Goodson was accused of failing to ensure Gray’s safety while he was transporting Gray in a police van, and also faced charges for not taking Gray for medical assistance.
Gray was handcuffed and secured with leg shackles during transport, but had not been seat-belted into the van. He was later found to have severe spinal cord injuries, and died a week later.
The Baltimore Police Department mandated the use of seatbelts for transports shortly before Gray’s death in custody, but failed to properly notify officers of the policy change, Officer Goodson’s lawyers said.
Evidence indicated that Officer Goodson could not have followed a policy he was not aware of, his attorneys said.
The disciplinary panel found Officer Goodson not guilty on additional charges that he lied to investigators, and that he failed to “properly document his actions on the day of Gray’s arrest,” the Baltimore Sun said.
Officer Goodson, along with five other officers, was criminally charged with the death of Freddie Gray in 2015.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Maryland State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby were widely criticized for politicizing the case, according to the New York Times.
Mosby criminally charging all of the officers before any investigation was completed, and without evidence that the officers had done anything wrong.
Officer Goodson was acquitted of all criminal charges in a bench trial that concluded June 23, 2016.
None of the six officers who faced criminal charges in the death of Gray were convicted, as Mosby’s office lacked any evidence of wrongdoing.
Administrative charges were then filed against five officers after their criminal cases had concluded.
The police union denounced the department’s decision to bring internal charges against them, saying the internal cases would “do nothing more than perpetuate a police force hesitant to exercise judgment when interacting with the public,” the Baltimore Sun said.
Two of the officers charged for violating department policy accepted minor sanctions, and went back to work for the department, a police union attorney told the Baltimore Sun.
Officer Goodson was the first of the remaining three officers to stand trial before the administrative board to contest the department’s decision to terminate them.
Lieutenant Brian Rice’s administrative trial begins Nov. 13, and Sergeant Alicia White’s trial is scheduled for Dec. 5.
The police department contends Goodson made at least two false statements to investigators. The trial board will make recommendations to the commissioner who has the final say, but neither decision will be made public, according to WBAL.
Officers Garrett Miller, Edward Nero, and William Porter, Sgt. Alicia White and Rice have sued Mosby in federal court, alleging she knowingly brought false criminal charges against them.
Officer Goodson was the only one of the six officers who did not join the lawsuit against the state’s attorney, The Baltimore Sun reported.