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Closing arguments expected Thursday in Lt. Brian Rice's administrative trial in Freddie Gray case

This still image from a citizen video shows officers loading Freddie Gray into a police van in 2015. The highest-ranking officer involved in the arrest, Lt. Brian Rice, is being tried by a panel of police officers on 10 administrative charges.
This still image from a citizen video shows officers loading Freddie Gray into a police van in 2015. The highest-ranking officer involved in the arrest, Lt. Brian Rice, is being tried by a panel of police officers on 10 administrative charges. (HANDOUT)

Closing arguments in the administrative trial of Baltimore Police Lt. Brian Rice on charges related to the 2015 arrest of Freddie Gray are scheduled to be presented Thursday morning.

The city and Rice’s defense team rested their cases before the police trial board on Wednesday.

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The three-member panel of law enforcement officials will begin their deliberations after those arguments, though it’s unclear when it might reach a verdict.

Rice, 44, could be fired if the panel finds him guilty of any of the nearly 30 infractions detailed under 10 charges, which allege he failed to ensure Gray’s safety and failed to perform certain supervisory duties.

The panel also could clear Rice of wrongdoing, allowing him to continue with the department.

Rice, a 20-year veteran of the city police force, ordered, participated in and oversaw Gray’s arrest and his placement in the back of a police van in handcuffs and leg shackles but unsecured in a seat belt. Rice was the highest-ranking officer working in the Western District that day and the officer who first made eye contact with Gray.

The van made a series of stops across West and Central Baltimore. Gray was found in the rear of the van unconscious, not breathing and with severe spinal cord injuries. He died a week later.

Six officers, including Rice, were charged criminally in the case, but none was convicted.

Rice was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter and other criminal charges at a criminal trial last year. Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., who drove the van, and Officer Edward Nero were also acquitted at criminal trials. Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby dropped all charges against the other three officers.

After the conclusion of the criminal cases, five officers were charged administratively. Two officers, Nero and Garrett Miller, accepted minor discipline. Goodson was cleared of all administrative charges by a trial board last week. Another officer, Sgt. Alicia White, is scheduled to appear before a trial board next month.

Rice’s administrative trial began Monday with opening statements from Neil Duke, the attorney prosecuting the case for the city, and Michael Davey, Rice’s attorney.

Duke said Rice neglected his duty to secure Gray in a seat belt, failed to properly supervise other officers involved in the arrest, failed to listen to his radio as required, and failed to secure evidence and witnesses after he realized Gray was injured.

Duke also said Rice told officers that he’d prefer they not speak with investigators about the circumstances surrounding Gray’s arrest.

Davey described Rice as an “extremely dedicated” officer who acted reasonably in all of his actions the day of Gray’s arrest.

During the course of the trial, Duke called six witnesses: four Baltimore officers who were serving under Rice that day and two Montgomery County Police Department officers who were involved in that agency’s review of Gray’s arrest and the recommendation that Rice be charged administratively.

The Baltimore officers largely backed Davey’s account of Rice’s actions — that they were reasonable and based on concerns for officer safety related to Gray’s combativeness, a threatening crowd that formed at the scene of his arrest, and the tight confines of the police van. The Montgomery County officers defended their investigation but conceded under cross-examination several contentions raised by Davey that seemed to undercut the charges.

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After Duke rested his case Wednesday, Davey attempted to have the charges against Rice dismissed. Duke challenged the procedural basis for the motion. Davey abandoned it and began calling his witnesses in the case.

Davey’s first witness was a lieutenant who worked for then-Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts and had raised mentioned safety questions with police vans in 2014. His second witness was a police commander in charge of policy revisions, who acknowledged department failures in disseminating rules related to the safe transport of detainees in vans at the time of Gray’s arrest.

Davey then called his third and final witness: a crash reconstruction and “occupant kinematics” expert who testified that Gray was safer on the floor of the van, where Rice placed him, than he would have been in a seat belt on the van’s bench.

The panel that will decide the case is chaired by Prince George’s County Police Maj. Melvin Powell. It includes Baltimore Police Capt. Charles Thompson and Baltimore Police Lt. Bryant Moore.

If they find Rice guilty of any of the charges, they would recommend punishment to Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who could accept that punishment or choose one of his own, up to and including termination. If the panel clears Rice, the decision is final.

Powell has declined to comment on the case. Thompson and Moore could not be reached for comment. Thompson, of the department’s tactical section, has responded to many protests since the death of Gray. He is the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed by activists and others arrested during a protest at Artscape in 2016, alleging police misconduct

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