Assault charge dropped against officer in van injury trial


BALTIMORE (AP) — A judge dropped an assault charge Monday against a Baltimore police officer charged in the death of a black man injured in a police transport van.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry Williams dismissed the second-degree assault charge against Lt. Brian Rice, the highest-ranking of six officers — three white and three black — charged in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray. The move comes as people across the country protest two fatal shootings of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota last week.

The judge said the prosecution’s basis for the assault charge was that Rice used the van in the alleged assault. Williams ruled that because Rice didn’t drive the van, prosecutors had no evidence.

Rice still faces charges of manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct. One misconduct charge was dropped when the trial began last week.

Williams dropped the assault charge after the prosecution rested its case and Rice’s lawyers asked for the judge to acquit him.

Earlier Monday, two other officers charged in Gray’s death testified at Rice’s bench trial.

The trial resumed with testimony from Officer Edward Nero, who was acquitted, and William Porter, whose trial ended in a mistrial.

After prosecutors asked Nero about his defamation lawsuit against prosecutors and a joint defense agreement he entered with other defendants, Williams ruled that Nero was hostile to the prosecution, allowing them to ask him leading questions.

Gray died a week after suffering a spinal injury in the van, touching off protests and rioting.

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