Prosecutors on Friday added charges against the North Miami police officer accused of illegally shooting an unarmed man who was lying on the ground with his hands up.
During Friday’s arraignment, Officer Jonathan Aledda was charged with an additional felony and misdemeanor count. In all, Aledda will now be facing four charges in the shooting of Charles Kinsey, a black behavioral therapist whose shooting in July drew worldwide media coverage.
Aledda, 30, who posted bail and is free awaiting trial, did not appear in court. Through his attorney, Aledda pleaded not guilty.
“He says he’s innocent and he’s going to go to trial,” defense attorney Douglas Hartman told reporters after the hearing.
A tentative trial date was set for Oct. 10.
The arrest of Aledda marked the first time a police officer has been charged in Miami-Dade County for an on-duty shooting since 1989. No police officer has been convicted in state court for an on-duty shooting since Miami Officer William Lozano in 1989, and his conviction was overturned on appeal and he was later acquitted.
The arraignment unfolded 10 months after Aledda shot Kinsey, who was trying to protect an autistic man who wandered away from his group home in North Miami. The autistic man, Arnaldo Rios, was holding a silver toy truck — which a neighbor mistook for a possible gun in calling 911.
Rios was sitting in the middle of the street, with Kinsey trying to shepherd him back, when North Miami police arrived, surrounding them in a tense confrontation. Kinsey was on his back, his hands in the air, begging officers not to shoot — all captured on a bystander video that went viral.
Aledda fired, hitting Kinsey in the thigh. The police union said Aledda acted in the defense of others, believing Rios had a weapon.
After months of investigation, prosecutors concluded that Aledda was not justified in shooting from more than 150 feet away. Among the reasons: Other officers had already radioed out that Rios did not have a weapon, and two cops within 20 feet did not fear for their lives.
In arresting Aledda, prosecutors initially charged him with one felony count of attempted manslaughter and one misdemeanor count of culpable negligence. During the Friday hearing, they officially filed two felony counts of attempted manslaughter, one for Kinsey and added one for Rios. The autistic man was not hit, but the shot fired at him “could have resulted in death,” according to the formal charges.
Likewise, two misdemeanor counts of culpable negligence were filed, one for Kinsey and one for Rios.
“We’re constantly analyzing the law and looking at the facts, and as a result, we realized these are the appropriate charges,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said.
On Friday, longtime Chief Assistant State Attorney Don Horn — who has not tried a major criminal case since a landmark 1989 manslaughter case against a Miami cop — filed the formal charges.
He was joined by senior prosecutor Reid Rubin and public corruption Assistant State Attorney Ronald Dowdy.
Hartman, the defense attorney, asked Circuit Judge Alan Fine to ask prosecutors to not make “extrajudicial statements” about the case because of the possible impact on potential jurors down the road.
“We’re going to try and pick an impartial jury,” said Hartman, who pointed out a Miami Herald article published Monday profiling Horn, though the prosecutor did not discuss details of the Aledda case in the story.
Horn was one of the prosecutors who won a manslaughter conviction against Miami Officer Lozano in a high-profile shooting. The conviction was later overturned because of “pervasive publicity,” and Lozano was acquitted by a jury in Orlando.
Fine cautioned lawyers on both sides to watch what they say to the media.
“The easier it is to pick a jury, the easier it is for everybody,” Fine said.