Reporter Kevin Rector on the first day of Officer Caesar Goodson administrative trial that's being held at the University of Baltimore Learning Commons with a three-panel trial board. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun video)
The Montgomery County internal affairs officer who interrogated Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. about his role in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray was subjected to a withering cross-examination Tuesday, the second day of Goodson's administrative trial.
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.
Noting Goodson was acquitted of all charges at his criminal trial in the case in June 2016 but not interviewed by Curtis until February 2017, Malone said memory can fade over time. He suggested Curtis' failure to interview Goodson more quickly likely contributed to a lack of clarity around some of Goodson's statements — including those that are now the subject of the charge that he made false statements.
"You tainted the evidence in your own case, didn't you?" Malone said, before prosecutor Neil Duke, acting on behalf of the city and the Police Department, objected to the line of questioning. The three-person law enforcement panel presiding over the trial then moved things along.
It was unclear Tuesday what the shortcomings acknowledged by Curtis might mean for Goodson, who faces more than 20 charges of violating police policy and could be terminated by Police Commissioner Kevin Davis if any of them is sustained by the trial board.
The disciplinary hearing for Officer Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. the driver of the police van in which the 25-year-old Gray suffered mortal spinal cord injuries in April 2015, began Monday morning.
By Kevin Rector and Jessica Anderson
Oct 30, 2017 | 9:00 PM
A change in state law last year allowed the public into the room for trial boards, but did not change the law to allow the public reporting of the trials' results, which are still secret.
Even the charges against Goodson remain hazy, though trial testimony has made clear that he is charged with making a false statement to investigators and neglecting his duty by failing to protect Gray's safety by securing him in a seat belt.
Gray suffered severe spinal cord injuries in the back of a police van where he was placed in handcuffs and leg shackles but not in a seat belt following his arrest in April 2015, according to prosecutors. He died a week later. His arrest and death were followed by widespread protests against police brutality and his funeral was followed by rioting, looting and arson.
Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby filed criminal charges against six officers in the case, then failed to secure a single conviction. Goodson and two others were acquitted at bench trials, and Mosby dropped all charges against the remaining three.
At the behest of the Baltimore Police Department, Curtis and other investigators in Montgomery and Howard counties also conducted a separate investigation into whether the officers violated internal police policies. They provided findings to a charging panel, which determined that five of the officers had done so.
Two — Officers Edward Nero and Garrett Miller — accepted minor punishments and are back at work. Officer William Porter, who had a mistrial before his criminal charges were dropped and was the only officer of the six charged criminally who was not charged administratively, is also back to work with the department.
Goodson and two other officers, Lt. Brian Rice and Sgt. Alicia White, who are all facing termination, are fighting the charges. Rice's administrative trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 13, while White's is scheduled to begin Dec. 5.
Goodson's trial began Monday with opening remarks from both sides, after which Duke called Curtis to the stand and had him walk through his interrogation of Goodson, a video of which was aired for the first time publicly.
On Tuesday morning, Malone resumed the proceedings with his cross-examination of Curtis.
Afterwards, some familiar faces — namely Porter and Nero — took the witness stand and provided testimony similar to what they have previously given in other interviews with law enforcement and during testimony in their own criminal trials and those of Goodson and Rice.
They testified that Gray was combative, that he wasn't secured with a seat belt in part because the officers feared for their safety, and that they didn't believe Gray was injured when he asked for a medic.
They testified that on the day of Gray's arrest, they were not aware of a new policy, issued days before, that required officers to secure detainees with seat belts.
Goodson's attorneys have maintained that he also wasn't aware of the policy.
Porter is now a High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, or HIDTA, task force detective, he said. Nero is now a member of the department's aviation unit.