According to ABC 7, Cook County Judge Domenica Stephenson acquitted officer Thomas Gaffney, former officer Joseph Walsh, and former detective David March of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and official misconduct charges. The men were on trial for allegedly falsifying police reports in an effort to protect Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago officer who was found guilty of second-degree murder in the 17-year-old's death.
Prosecutors said the infamous dashcam footage contradicted officers' claims that McDonald made aggressive moves toward police before Van Dyke opened fire. Though the video showed the teen walking away as he was gunned down, Stephenson wasn't convinced by the argument. She said the state failed to provide any solid evidence that Gaffney, Walsh, and March conspired to protect their fellow officer by providing false information to investigators.
"It is not as simple as looking at the reports in comparison to what is depicted on the video," Stephenson said, according to the Chicago Sun Times. "It has been established that the recovered videos do not show the vantage point of Van Dyke, Walsh, or others who were either facing or to the side of McDonald."
Pastor Marvin Hunter, McDonald's uncle, critcized Stephenson's decision, insisting she was sending a dangerous message to Chicago law enforcement.
"The verdict says to police officer: you can lie, cheat, steal, rape, rob and pillage and it's OK," he said. "We will support you and make sure that you never see the inside of a jail cell."
Thursday's ruling was announced just before Van Dyke's sentencing hearing; he faces up to 96 years in prison.