An appeals court has granted a new trial for a North Miami Police officer who was convicted of a misdemeanor but acquitted of attempted manslaughter for shooting at a severely autistic man and wounding the man's caretaker back in 2016.
In a ruling released Wednesday, Florida's Third District Court of Appeals overturned the 2019 conviction of Officer Jonathan Aledda in the shooting of Charles Kinsey.
"It’s been a long time for Mr. Aledda and you know he’s very pleased," said his attorney, Eric Schwartzreich. "We hope this is going to end with the state either dropping the charges or alternatively Mr. Alleda being found not guilty."
Aledda was sentenced to one year of probation after a jury found him guilty of culpable negligence in the July 18, 2016 shooting of Kinsey.
Kinsey was the caretaker of 27-year-old Arnaldo Rios-Soto, who suffered from developmental disabilities and had fled from his group home carrying a silver toy truck.
Kinsey was trying to protect Rios-Soto, who sat down at an intersection as police responded to reports of a man with a gun.
Police surrounded the two as Aledda, who was armed with a rifle and believed Rios-Soto was armed and holding Kinsey hostage, took cover behind a car 50 yards away.
Two officers who were closer to Kinsey and Rios-Soto said they could tell the silver object was a toy, but a commander radioed that it appeared Rios-Soto was reloading.
Aledda fired three shots at Rios-Soto. Two missed but one hit Kinsey in the hip as he was laying on the ground.
Aledda, who was a four-year member of the department at the time, was initially charged with two counts of attempted manslaughter with a deadly weapon and two counts of culpable negligence.
At his first trial, Aledda was acquitted on one of the negligence counts but the case ended in a hung jury and mistrial on the other three counts.
At a second trial, a jury acquitted Aledda on the attempted manslaughter charges but found him guilty of the one negligence charge.
The appeals court's ruling said the trial court erred in not allowing Aledda's SWAT commander to testify about the training Aledda received.
"We conclude that the trial court erred by not allowing Aledda – charged by the State with culpable negligence for his assessment of and response to a crime scene – to introduce testimony regarding how Aledda was trained to assess and respond in such circumstances," the ruling stated.
It's now up to the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office to determine whether Aledda will face another trial.
In a statement Wednesday, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said the appellate court's decision was "disappointing to all who believed that this shooting incident was unnecessary and incorrect."
Fernandez Rundle said her office is exploring the possibility of obtaining a rehearing before the appeals court.
Attorney Matt Dietz, who represents Rios-Soto, said he was also disappointed in the decision.
"Overall, we understand the decision but we are very disappointed by it. Essentially, there are actions that are natural for people that are autistic. Like in this case Arnaldo Rios was stemming back and forth and sitting crossed leg on the street holding a toy truck," Dietz said. "To contemplate that different training would have said shooting him because he exhibited those behaviors is extremely troubling because people with autism have those behaviors every day."
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