Kevin Sneed of Prince George’s County, Maryland, was pulled over for a broken taillight. He ended up with an attempted murder charge. But after a two-year battle, and with help from local advocacy groups, Sneed can continue being a freed man. Sometimes the justice system gets it right.
According to NBC Washington 4, the officer on duty wrote in his report that there was a “robbery in the immediate vicinity the previous night.” The officer claimed Sneed accelerated when the officer tried to pull him over for the broken taillight and feared Sneed might’ve had a gun on him because black man + attempted robbery the night before = this black man must be the robber from last night, armed, and dangerous. Of course, Sneed was simply Driving While Black.
While full details haven’t yet been reported, we know that the officer jumped through the driver’s side window immediately after Sneed stopped his car, apparently believing that Sneed was armed. The officer searched the car but found no weapons or drugs.
Sneed was left bruised and says he was beaten by the police officer, and yet he was charged with attempted murder of an officer, NBC reports.
Sneed said, “They told me no bond and they told me what I was actually charged with. I said, ‘Just let me go to my cell.’”
Understandably, the two-year battle that ensued took an emotional and psychological toll on Sneed, who maintained his innocence throughout the matter.
“He felt like he didn’t even want to live,” said his mother, Kema Harris.
According to Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy, who said she inherited the case, her office “determined the case had merit,” and decided to prosecute, but with the reduced charges of second-degree assault and disorderly conduct rather than attempted murder. Sneed was offered a tempting deal: He’d get no jail time if he pleaded guilty to these lesser charges.
“At the end of the day,” Sneed said, “I would be a fool to take it and then they play with my life.” Sneed apparently knew the history of corrupt justice systems that loom over both the innocent and the guilty. Many times people who can’t afford to mount a proper legal defense end up taking plea deals for crimes they’re innocent of, then face repercussions that follow them for a lifetime.
Sneed and his mother eventually got an assist from local group Life After Release, which in turn involved Black Lives Matter DC to retain new defense attorneys.
“We were able to get a Black Lives Matter support fund for Kevin’s defense and get him away from public defenders who didn’t have his best interest,” Black Lives Matter Core Organizer Nee Nee Taylor said.
After a two-day trial, a jury found Sneed not guilty on all charges Wednesday.
Kevin Sneed does not take his victory lightly.
“If you did not do anything wrong, fight for your life,” he declared.
Correction: May 5, 2019, 1:37 p.m. ET: Following initial reports, one of Mr. Sneed’s lawyers, Brandon Burrell, contacted The Root to dispute claims quoted by Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy to NBC Washington 4. Burrell also gave additional information proving the corruption of the case itself, as a gun was planted by police in an attempt to further frame Mr. Sneed. Burrell clarifies:
It is inaccurate that the prosecutor “reduced” any of the charges. The grand jury didn’t find probable cause of attempted first degree murder, so after the indictment his charges were first degree assault, second degree assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, gun charges, and various traffic citations. The appearance of a gun a week after his arrest, and after he was searched was incredibly suspicious. The gun was also found in the backseat of the cruiser, but Sneed was placed in front seat of cruiser. The prosecutor had no choice but to dismiss the charges related to the gun the first day of trial, because of the indicia that it was planted by the police. When trial began Sneed was then tried on first degree assault, second degree assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. It was clear during the testimony of the initial officer that Sneed was racially profiled. One of the reasons for the stop was because of a robbery the night before in that location, but there was absolutely no correlation to that and Mr. Sneed. The officer wasn’t even involved in the robbery investigation.
Correction: Sept. 21, 2019, 11 a.m. ET: This story has been edited to remove unattributed text and to add fuller sourcing.