The North Miami police officer who shot an autistic man’s caregiver in 2016 and was convicted of culpable negligence, but acquitted of attempted manslaughter, will avoid jail time.
At his hearing Wednesday, Judge Alan Fine sentenced Jonathan Aledda to one year of probation, 100 hours of community service and ordered him to write a 2,500 word essay on weapon discharge and communication. Aledda had faced up to one year in prison for his culpable negligence charge. Had he been convicted of attempted manslaughter, Aledda could have spent up to 66 years in prison.
Fine also ruled to withhold adjudication in the case, meaning Aledda’s conviction will not appear on his criminal record.
"Protecting all the residents of Miami-Dade is a duty assumed by every police officer every day. Policing can be a very dangerous job,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said. “However, this case indicates our community’s belief that, on a daily basis, thought and attention should be a part of every action undertaken.”
A motorist called 911 after seeing Arnaldo Rios Soto on the side of the road, saying the man appeared suicidal and may be holding a gun. Charles Kinsey, Soto’s caretaker, was trying to coax Soto back into the group home he had left.
Aledda, a trained SWAT member, testified he thought Soto had a gun and was holding Kinsey hostage. In an attempt to disarm Soto, Aledda shot Kinsey, who had his arms raised and was laying on the ground begging police not to shoot, in the leg instead.
Audio obtained from that day showed police had clarified Soto was not holding a gun before the shooting happened, but Aledda testified he did not hear commands to hold fire. He also said he could hear Kinsey yelling but couldn’t understand what he was saying.
“It appeared he was screaming for mercy or for help or something. In my mind, the white male had a gun,” he said.
While his actions may have been fueled by good intentions, prosecutor Don Horn felt Aledda was nothing short of brash.
"His conduct was gross and flagrant, his course of conduct that day showed reckless disregard for human life," Horn said. “It showed grossly careless disregard for the safety and welfare of the public."
Once named “Top Rookie Cop” and “Officer of the Month,” Aledda became the first cop in 30 years to be convicted for an on-duty shooting in Miami-Dade County. He was given a notice of intent to terminate and was placed on administrative leave without pay in June.
"We respect the Criminal Justice System, and we are empathetic to the feelings of all who have been affected by this tragic incident,” Major Annmarie Cardona said in a statement. "The North Miami Police Department will continue its mission of building community trust and partnerships. Together, we will progress through healing and peace."
Kinsey, who filed a federal lawsuit against Aledda, said he “can’t sleep at night” and has “nightmares” because of what happened.
“I believe he shouldn’t be an officer, nowhere,” he said.
Aledda’s first trial in March ended in a hung jury. He was found not guilty on one count of negligence, but the jury was deadlocked on the other negligence charge and both counts of attempted manslaughter. According to the jury foreman, most of the jurors wanted to acquit Aledda of all charges.