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Black Harvard Student Arrested in April Will Face No Charges, Per Attorneys

No charges will be filed against the black Harvard undergraduate whose arrest April 13 sparked national controversy and allegations of police brutality, his attorneys announced Friday.

The student had initially faced charges including including indecent exposure, disorderly conduct, assault, and resisting arrest. He incurred the charges the night of Yardfest, Harvard’s annual spring concert, when CPD officers arrested and physically confronted him as he stood—naked and likely under the influence of narcotics—on a street median feet from campus.

The student's attorneys—Winthrop Faculty Dean and Harvard Law School professor Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. and Law School professor Dehlia Umunna—wrote the student, his family, and his friends “applaud the decision” and that their client particularly wants to thank the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and the Cambridge Police Department for their “efforts and considerations.” The two attorneys also wrote their client “looks forward to returning to his studies” and does not plan to discuss the arrest publicly.

Sullivan and Umunna wrote the District Attorney's office and the Cambridge police "worked tirelessly and cooperatively" to help all parties "reach a just and fair resolution."

CPD announced in a separate press release Friday that the City of Cambridge has hired Roderick L. Ireland, the first African-American appointed Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, to conduct an “independent review” of CPD’s “active and ongoing” internal review of the April 13 arrest. CPD's press release also stated no charges have been filed against the student, though it did not specify whether charges will be filed in future.

[Want to understand what happened the night of April 13? Review a comprehensive timeline of the events leading up to the arrest, the arrest itself, and Harvard’s response here.]

Per department policy, CPD conducts an internal investigation whenever officers use force—as they did when arresting the student.

The results of Ireland’s review will be made public, according to CPD’s press release.

“Our intention at the outset of this incident was to ensure a thorough, complete, fair and transparent internal review process,” CPD Commissioner Branville Bard Jr. said in the press release. “Having someone with a proven track record like Chief Justice Ireland reinforces those intentions and our commitment to a transparent process. We are thankful for his willingness to conduct an independent review.”

The student's attorneys wrote in their press release that their client and his family are pleased with Roderick’s selection.

“The choice of former Chief Justice Roderick Ireland to conduct an independent review of the police department’s internal affairs investigation was enthusiastically supported by all parties,” Sullivan and Umunna wrote.

The news the student will face no charges comes after weeks of controversy over his arrest, which roiled campus, earned condemnation from top Harvard administrators, and drew national headlines. The controversy largely centered on the way in which CPD officers physically interacted with the undergraduate.

After CPD officers arrived at the scene April 13, they spoke briefly with the student before one officer tackled him to the ground from behind. While the student remained on the ground, one law enforcement official delivered five punches to the student's stomach in an “ineffective” effort to handcuff him, according to the CPD police report.

CPD officers later stated in the report that the student had clenched his fists and begun making aggressive moves towards law enforcement—thus prompting an officer to tackle him. But eyewitnesses of the event, including members of the Harvard Black Law Students Association, have stated CPD’s account of events is incorrect and that the officer tackled the student “without provocation.”

In a video of the incident later published by CPD, the student can be seen standing still, surrounded by four officers, while the officers talk to him for at least two minutes. The student then turns around and takes two steps towards one officer before taking a step back and raising his arms to chest-level. Another officer then tackles him from behind.

Hours after the arrest, BLSA released a statement calling the incident an example of “police brutality.” In the following weeks, University affiliates met to process and protest the incident, and University President Drew G. Faust announced the formation of a committee to review the events leading up to the arrest. That review is ongoing.

In their press release Friday, the two lawyers wrote the student is grateful for the “outpouring of support” he received from Harvard affiliates, student groups, and from “complete strangers” both in Cambridge and around the country. The lawyers also asked for privacy on behalf of their client.

“Please respect his and his family’s privacy as they continue to process this incident and return to their regular lives," the lawyers wrote.

Editor’s Note: The Crimson is withholding the name of the student involved in the April 13 incident out of concern for his privacy.

—Staff writer Aidan F. Ryan can be reached at aidan.ryan@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @AidanRyanNH.

—Staff writer Michael E. Xie can be reached at michael.xie@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelEXie1.

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