The Baltimore police lieutenant who ordered, participated in and oversaw parts of Freddie Gray’s arrest is scheduled to begin standing trial Monday on charges he violated multiple police department policies in the process.
Lt. Brian Rice, the highest-ranking officer in the case, faces about 10 administrative charges, according to sources familiar with the case who requested anonymity to speak freely about a pending legal matter. He is accused of neglecting to ensure Gray’s safety and failing in his supervisory duties.
The lieutenant’s trial board, the second against an officer in Gray’s arrest in as many weeks, is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Monday at the University of Baltimore and continue at least through Friday.
Officer Caesar Goodson Jr., the driver of the van into which Gray was loaded after his arrest in April 2015, was acquitted last week of 21 administrative charges.
Rice placed Gray, handcuffed and shackled but unsecured by a seat belt, in the back of the van, witnesses said in undisputed testimony during Rice’s criminal trial last year. After a van ride that included several stops, Gray was found unconscious, not breathing and suffering severe spinal cord injuries.
Gray never regained consciousness. He died a week after his arrest.
Prosecutors and attorneys for the officers have disputed when and how along the route Gray was injured. But all have agreed the injuries that killed him occurred in the van.
State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby filed criminal charges against six officers in Gray’s arrest and death. Rice, 44, was acquitted in his criminal trial of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and misconduct in office. The judge dismissed an assault charge for lack of evidence.
Two other officers, Goodson and Officer Edward Nero, were also acquitted of criminal charges. Mosby then dropped all remaining charges against the other three officers.
Police detectives from Howard and Montgomery counties reviewed the six officer’s actions against department policies. The department then filed administrative charges against five of them — Rice, Goodson, Nero, Officer Garrett Miller and Sgt. Alicia White.
Nero and Miller accepted minor discipline, and are back at work with the department. Goodson was cleared of all charges by a three-member trial board of fellow police officers; his attorney said he also intends to go back to work with the department.
White is scheduled to go before a trial board on Dec. 5.
If the trial board acquits an officer of all charges, the decision is final. If it sustains a finding of guilt on any charge, Police Commissioner Kevin Davis may order sanctions up to and including termination.
Attorney Neil Duke, who prosecuted Goodson for the city, is slated to serve in the same role at Rice’s trial. Rice is represented by attorney Mike Davey.
Davey has said that “the evidence will show that Lt. Rice acted within the policies of the Baltimore Police Department that were in place at the time.”
The department says a new policy that required officers to secure detainees in seat belts when transporting them in police vans went into effect days before Gray’s arrest. Attorneys for the officers have said the policy was not properly announced or distributed to the officers, and was unknown to them on the morning Gray was arrested.
A previous policy had given officers discretion to decide whether or not to secure a detainee in a seat belt based on whether they felt doing so represented a danger to themselves.
Witnesses in multiple trials in the case have testified that Rice entered the rear of the police van to pull Gray into the vehicle at the van’s second stop, then ordered the van to leave the scene as quickly as possible — with Gray still prone on the van’s floor in the back.
Rice told investigators that the arrest scene in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore had become dangerous for officers, as many neighborhood residents had gathered and were angry with police because they believed police had mistreated Gray.
Legal analysts expect Duke to focus on Rice’s role as the supervising officer to argue that he was in charge at the arrest and therefore was ultimately responsible for Gray’s safety.
Prosecutors took that approach at Rice’s criminal trial. Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow cast Rice in his opening statement as a "highly trained and promoted lieutenant" who knew department policy required officers to secure detainees with seat belts.
“He knew it, and he ignored it,” Schatzow said.
At the conclusion of the criminal trial, Judge Barry Williams made clear in a lengthy explanation of his ruling that he was acquitting Rice because the prosecution had failed to meet the high burden of proof for criminal guilt.
Rice’s failure to secure Gray in a seat belt at the second stop of the van “may have been a mistake or it may have been bad judgment,” Williams said, but the state hadn’t proved it was a crime — which requires more than a breach of police department general orders.
For the trial board, Duke must prove Rice’s guilt by a preponderance of evidence, a lower standard than the guilt beyond a reasonable doubt required in criminal court.
Rice will have a different trial board than the one that presided over Goodson’s trial.
Sources familiar with the proceedings said the panel for Rice’s trial will be chaired by Prince George’s County Police Maj. Melvin Powell. Powell, who serves in that department’s bureau of patrol, declined to comment.
Two Baltimore Police officers will fill out the panel. Their names have not been released.