Baltimore Police Officer Found Not Guilty in Freddie Gray Death

iStock/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) — A judge found Baltimore police officer Edward Nero not guilty Monday on all four charges for his role in the events leading up to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.

Nero, 30, had pleaded not guilty to the charges stemming from his actions during the initial stop and arrest of Gray, who suffered a catastrophic spinal injury while in police custody. Gray died one week later and his death sparked days of violent protests in Baltimore. Because Nero opted for a bench trial, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams decided his fate rather than a jury.

During the case, prosecutors argued that Nero had no regard for Gray’s safety and was reckless by ignoring policing rules when he failed to place a seat belt on Gray, who was placed on his stomach in shackles in the back of a police transport vehicle. Congressman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said he would like to see seat belts in every police van moving forward.

Williams grilled prosecutors during closing arguments last Thursday, questioning whether a crime was in fact committed by Nero.

“So, every time there’s an arrest without probable justification -- it is a crime?” Williams asked.

“We believe that the search and arrest without justification are assault, your honor,” Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe responded. “There’s no question about that.”

Legal experts say the tone of Williams' pointed questions during closing arguments gave an indication it would be an uphill battle for prosecutors to win their case against Nero.

The verdict comes more than a year after Gray’s death last April. His death became a symbol of the black community’s distrust of police, triggering days of rioting and angry backlash from community members.

Defense attorney Marc Zayon said that his client's actions were completely legal and protected by the law, and that the state’s case against Nero is “nonsensical.”

“I can’t believe I even have to argue this,” he said. “The detention is okay, the cuffing is okay, the moving is okay,” he said. “Being detained is a horrible thing, being cuffed is a horrible thing…but the law allows it.”

Public officials, including Cummings, called for peace and respect for the rule of law following the verdict.

“Whatever may be Judge Barry Williams' decision with respect to Officer Nero’s role in the death of Freddie Gray, that verdict will have as much legitimacy as our society and our justice system can provide,” Cummings said last week. “We will respect the decision.”


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California anticipates much-needed rain this week after catastrophic wildfires

California anticipates much-needed rain this week after catastrophic wildfiresGoogle Earth(NEW YORK) -- Ravaged by a slew of deadly wildfires in recent days, northern California is set to get a bit of relief this week in the form of rain.

A storm system is expected to move over the Pacific Northwest later this week and the trailing cold front will most likely bring some much-needed rain to northern California between Thursday and Friday, according to ABC meteorologists.

"It will rain a bit but not enough to fully douse the blazes," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Ken Clark said in a statement Tuesday. "The biggest advantage to firefighters will be the increase in humidity and lower temperatures."

Massive wildfires have charred more than 245,000 acres of land statewide in the past week, killing at least 41 people and destroying thousands of homes, according to authorities.

Firefighters were battling about a dozen wildfires as of late Tuesday evening, although most of them were more than halfway contained.

“The weather today will be warm with low humidity, which will continue to challenge firefighters, but only light winds are forecast,” CalFire said in a statement on Tuesday. “A chance of precipitation is expected to arrive later in the week, bringing relief from the dry conditions.”

The northern parts of the Golden State, which has bared the brunt of the fire damage, is forecast to see an influx of cloudy, cooler and wetter weather later in the week, according to AccuWeather.

Spotter from Los Osos was reporting sprinkles from this high level moisture. Dry at lower levels. Rain evaporates. Also called "Virga" #cawx pic.twitter.com/sgxj3bdXZQ

— NWS Los Angeles (@NWSLosAngeles) October 18, 2017

However, a return of dry air, heat and areas of gusty winds could once again raise the wildfire danger early next week, meteorologists said.

Separately, a band of moisture, referred to as Atmospheric River by weather experts, is currently stretching between Asia and North America. It’s expected to bring several storm systems into many parts of the Pacific Northwest through the rest of the week.

The first of these storms have already hit the Pacific Northwest with wind gusts of between 40 and 74 mph.

A number of wind warnings and flood watches are in effect in the western and northern parts of the U.S. ahead of the storm.

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