The saying goes that if you fail at first, then try again, but prosecutors in Baltimore may want to ask themselves if quitting is a viable option at this point. For the fourth time since last spring, prosecutors were unable to secure a conviction in the Freddie Gray case as Lt. Brian Rice, 42, was cleared of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment, and misconduct in office.
Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams explained his decision to rule the verdict as not guilty with this statement:
“Here, the failure to seat-belt may have been a mistake or it may have been bad judgement but without showing more than has been presented to the court concerning the failure to seat-belt and the surrounding circumstances, the state has failed to meet its burden to show that the actions of the defendant rose above mere civil negligence.”
Gray, 25 at the time of his death, was arrested for possessing what police called an illegal switch blade on April 12, 2015, outside the Gilmor Homes housing project on the west side of the Charm City. According to his attorney, Gray died a week later in a Baltimore hospital from a severe spinal cord injury he received while in police custody due to not being strapped in with a seatbelt while in the police van.
The death of Gray, who had been involved in 20 criminal court cases when he died, sparked riots in Baltimore that resulted in at least 250 other arrests. Following his untimely death, Gray joined Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and other violently killed black men as icons for the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.
Not all were happy with the verdict of Rice being cleared as one would expect, and the list included New York Knicks star and Baltimore native, Carmelo Anthony. Following a Team USA practice for the upcoming Olympics, Anthony spoke to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated, an online magazine that runs through ESPN, the following on Monday afternoon.
“It’s just sad. The people there, the communities there, all they want is justice. Everybody is expecting something to come out of this. It’s just getting worse and worse. I don’t think anyone has the answers. I said it before, the system is broken. It takes a lot to fix it…. The Freddie Gray situation is right in my backyard. These are my people, people that I grew up with. It’s affecting me.”
Anthony, who just completed his sixth season with the New York Knicks after spending the first half of his All-Star career with the Denver Nuggets, has become one of the most vocal athletes in recent years when it comes to social change and trying to help everyone get along. Earlier this month, Anthony, along with close friends and fellow NBA players LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Paul, appeared at the ESPYS and made an impassioned plea for the violence and killings to stop.
During his discussion with Spears, the former scoring champion also announced his plans for a town hall in Los Angeles, where he has an offseason home.
“Get guys in the community in L.A., the important people. They need to hear the community voices and vice versa whether it’s police, whether it’s politicians, whether it’s mayors, whether it’s governors, white people, black people, Mexicans, whoever. I want everybody there having voices…. It’s about creating a plan and executing a plan and not just speaking out on this and speaking out on that. At the end of the day, talking is not going to do that anymore. We got to have action, no matter what that action is, we got to have action.”
Times have changed for the longtime Knick, who has settled nicely into the activist role and is far removed from the man who once appeared in a DVD warning people not to snitch to the police. In a time where more and more athletes are making their opinions known, and sometimes in negative ways, Anthony is handling things like a mature adult and a leader, two things that the NBA needs right now when things are so controversial around the world.
As for basketball, Anthony remains optimistic about the Knicks reaching the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season after a flurry of offseason moves that include a trade for former MVP Derrick Rose and the signings of All-Stars Joakim Noah and Brandon Jennings.
“The front office stepped up. It was a collective effort. They did their job and did what they had to do to make things happen. Now they’ve put us in the situation to give us an opportunity. All we have to do is take advantage of it. I want no credit. Phil and [general manager] Steve [Mills] did everything…. On paper, we look good, real good. It’s matter of everyone coming together and buying into what we want to do. We have a very special team on paper right now. I think we have a good opportunity to do some things this year. It’s all about what we do. It’s all about us now, how we come together and jell together. For the most part, the pieces are there.”
The last of a Knicks core that once also featured Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, Anthony has settled nicely into the veteran leader role that former teammates Andre Miller and Chauncey Billups once were for him. When the NBA Finals ended, the Knicks’s chances of winning the 2017 NBA Finals stood at 100/1, although a successful offseason should push them up by a significant margin.
Anthony won’t just be the crafty, old veteran on this year’s Knicks team, although Anthony, 32, is the oldest player on the team that will play for gold in next month’s Olympics. The nine-time All-Star is one of only four players, including himself, Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, and
Oklahoma City Thunder Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant.
The former Syracuse Orange star has been a part of the last two Team USA teams that won gold medals and also won a bronze medal in 2004.
(Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)