An appeals court on Wednesday overturned the negligence conviction of a Florida police officer who in 2016 shot an unarmed autistic man and kicked his caregiver in the leg, and ordered a new trial.
Former North Miami officer Jonathan Aledda was convicted of culpable negligence in 2019 but was acquitted of attempted manslaughter charges. He was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and ordered to write an essay on communication and weapons discharges.
The appeals court ruled that a Florida circuit judge erred in preventing an officer from testifying about the training Aledda received on hostage rescues.
Aledda testified that he believed Charles Kinsey, a behavioral therapist, was in a hostage situation and needed to shoot Arnaldo Rios Soto to protect Kinsey and other officers.
Rios, who had run away from the group home where he was living at the time, was seen on bystander video sitting in the street playing with a shiny toy truck. Kinsey lay down on the ground, raised his hands in the air and tried to explain to officers that he and Rios were unarmed, according to video of the incident taken by a witness. The video ended before filming began.
Two officers closer to Kinsey and Rios said they could tell the silver object was a toy, but a commander radioed that it appeared Rios was reloading, according to witness accounts. Aledda fired three shots at Rios, two of which missed. The third shot hit Kinsey in the leg.
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Miami-Dade State’s Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told The Associated Press in a statement that the court’s decision was disappointing to anyone who believed the shooting was unnecessary and improper, and that prosecutors plan to request a new hearing.
Kinsey is “willing to do whatever it takes to secure a conviction in this case. He doesn’t think Officer Aledda should be a police officer and doesn’t think he should get his credentials back,” said Kinsey’s attorney, Hilton Napoleon, at CBS4 Miami.
“While the state was allowed to present evidence of how other officers at the scene reacted to the situation and how ‘shocked’ those officers were that Aledda fired his weapon, the trial court’s impugned evidentiary ruling prevented Aledda from presenting a key ingredient of its defense,” Judges Edwin Scales, Eric Hendon and Bronwyn Miller wrote in their ruling.
According to Aledda’s attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, in a statement to CBS4, Aledda is “excited” about the decision and is looking forward to getting his job back.
“We hope this ends with the state dropping the charges or finding Mr. Alleda not guilty,” Schwartzreich told NBC6.
Aledda pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges and his first trial ended in a mistrial in March 2019 after a jury found him not guilty of culpable negligence but deadlocked on the other counts.
Contributor: Elinor Aspegren, USA TODAY; The Associated Press