Family begins healing, focus turns to ex-officer’s sentence

Family begins healing, focus turns to ex-officer's sentence

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Relatives of Walter Scott differ on how much time a white former officer should spend in federal prison for gunning down the black motorist, with one brother suggesting Michael Slager should go away for life.

But others, like Scott’s mother Judy, said the officer’s admission of guilt was all the punishment she needed to have closure and move on, telling reporters, “That he admitted he did it was enough years for me.”

It’s now solely up to a federal judge to determine how long Slager, 35, will spend in prison after his guilty plea to a federal civil rights violation in the April 2015 shooting death of the 50-year-old Scott.

Slager shot Scott five times in the back as he fled the officer on foot, and cellphone video of the shooting was viewed millions of times around the world. The officer, fired after the video became public, testified at his murder trial that he feared for his life and that Scott was trying to grab his stun gun. Last year’s initial trial, where Slager had faced a possible life sentence, ended in a hung jury.

The chilling video footage helped fuel the Black Lives Matter movement that emerged around the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. It was seized on by many as vivid proof of what they had been arguing for years: that white officers too often use deadly force unnecessarily against black people.

Slager’s plea deal saved him a second trial in state court, where prosecutors were set later this year to try again to secure a murder conviction.

After the hung jury, many worried that, because the video seemed to some to be an open-and-shut case, they’d never see justice.

But it’s still possible the former North Charleston police officer — sent back Tuesday afternoon to the jail where he stayed for months after his arrest — will spend the rest of his life in prison if a judge gives him the maximum sentence. No date has been set for that hearing, and it will likely take several months for federal officials to prepare their pre-sentencing report.

Federal guidelines provide the framework for sentencing in U.S. District Courts, while ultimate discretion lies with the judge. There are various avenues through which defendants can argue for a lighter sentence, such as lack of prior criminal record or co-operation with authorities.

Prosecutors have recommended that Slager be given a slightly lesser sentence because he took responsibility for his acts, saving the government the time and expense of a trial.

Rene Josey, a former U.S. Attorney in South Carolina, now in private practice, said Slager likely wouldn’t have entered his plea without some degree of certainty the government would be able to convict him. When they’re brought, Josey said, federal cases like this one are likely to end in a guilty verdict or plea because the strength of the resources federal authorities are able to put behind their cases.

“That’s not any slight on the state system,” Josey said. “It’s just that the state system deals with a lot more, with a lot less resources.”

From his reading of the plea deal and associated sentencing guidelines, Josey said Slager likely faces an absolute minimum of one year in prison, with a maximum of life.

Regardless of where he serves his sentence, Josey said, Slager is likely pleased it’ll be in federal, not state, prison.

“I’d suspect a cop who shot a black guy would rather be in federal custody and not state custody,” he said. “Generally federal facilities are going to be more accommodating and better funded and more comfortable, more or less.”

The rarity of Slager’s case ending in a determination of guilt wasn’t lost on Scott’s relatives or their attorneys, who spoke with reporters after the hearing.

Both Chris Stewart and Justin Bamberg, whose work helped secure a $6.5 million settlement for the Scott family in their lawsuit against North Charleston, said the guilty plea both brings closure for their clients and sets an example for similar cases across the country.

“That is what we need to see all across the country, not just when there’s video,” Bamberg said.

___

Kinnard reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Reach her at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP . Read her work at https://apnews.com/search/meg%20kinnard .

Meg Kinnard And Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press

Just Posted

UPDATE: Rockslide keeps Coquihalla northbound lane closed

Highway 5 is closed in one direction.

UPDATE: Wind warning ends for Metro Vancouver after thousands lose power

More than 34,000 BC Hydro customers in the dark on Sunday morning in the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast

Make and break New Year’s ‘WrestleLutions’ this Saturday

Cloverdale-based All Star Wrestling presenting full line up Saturday, Jan. 27

VIDEO: Vancouver Giants blanked by Portland Winterhawks

Saturday’s 2-0 setback marks first regulation loss for G-Men in 10 games

Mom delivers plastic mats to Langley’s homeless

Jenifer Kosman fashions sleeping mats from plastic grocery bags

Two men guilty in murders of Alberta family could face 75 years

The pair were found guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of Klaus’s parents and sister in a rural home near Castor, Alberta

With Senate talks falling short, U.S. shutdown enters workweek

President Donald Trump accused Democrats of prioritizing services and security for noncitizens over U.S. citizens

Toronto mayor wants city to co-host 2026 FIFA World Cup

The mayor of Canada’s most populous city says he wants Toronto to be among the North American cities to co-host the 2026 FIFA World Cup

With a lighter touch, SAG Awards follows a familiar script

Morgan Freeman accepts the Life Achievement Award at the 24th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday

S. Koreans burn Kim’s photo as N. Korean band leader passes

South Korean activists burned a large photo of Kim Jong Un as an extremely popular girl band passed them

Trudeau heads to Davos to pitch investment opportunities in Canada

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is on his way to Davos, Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum

Protect your home and save: New sensor stops flooding in its tracks

BC-made system offers solution to damaging leaks from water tanks, dishwashers and more

Most Read