The Baltimore Sun
The Rev. Westley West, a Baltimore pastor running for City Council, was acquitted on Wednesday of charges stemming from a protest during a court hearing for the officers charged in the Freddie Gray case in September.
Jurors found West, 27, not guilty of disturbance of the peace and failure to obey law enforcement, said his attorney Donald Wright. Prosecutors dropped charges of attempting to incite a riot, malicious destruction of property, disorderly conduct, and false imprisonment before the trial, Wright said.
"We are very pleased with the result," Wright said. He said jurors returned a verdict in about 15 minutes. He called the verdict "a pretty harsh rebuke of the police action in this case and the entire prosecution."
West and others were protesting during a September pre-trial hearing to determine if the trials of the six officers charged in the arrest and death of Gray should be moved outside the city. Judge Barry Williams denied the defense motion to move the proceedings.
West was arrested on Sept. 9 at his church, Faith Empowered Ministries in West Baltimore. West and his attorney have questioned the timing of the arrest. They said it came a week after he led a brief protest from the downtown courthouse to the Inner Harbor, where police said he blocked traffic on Pratt Street, as he carried a megaphone.
Wright said police could have handled the matter differently, choosing to engage West in conversation.
"It would be nice if we had a police department who came in with a handshake and an open mind addressing some of these issues," Wright said. Instead, he said West was treated like a threat.
A spokesman with the police department declined to comment
West is seeking the Democratic nomination for the City Council seat currently held by Nick Mosby, who is running for mayor.
West also faces theft charges in Baltimore County, where police allege he used bank account and routing information to steal more than $700 from an Owings Mills company where he briefly worked as a truck driver. West has maintained his innocence. His trial in that case is scheduled for April 19.
West plans to hold a news conference outside City Hall Wednesday afternoon to "demand that Baltimore city police officers and judiciary system clean up their act of stereotyping and racial profiling," he said in a statement.