Former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager leaves the Charleston County Courthouse last year after the murder trial against him was declared void. (Mic Smith / AP)
The former South Carolina police officer who shot dead Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, after a traffic stop was sentenced to 20 years behind bars in a case on Thursday federal derived from the fatal encounter. 1
But earlier this year, Slager pleaded guilty to a single federal civil rights charge as part of a plea agreement that settled both cases. A judge sentenced him to 20 years in prison, according to Associated Press that had a journalist in the sentence.
Under the terms of the guilty plea announced in May, Slager pleaded guilty to one count of violating Scott's rights under the color of the law, and prosecutors said they would pressure a judge to apply sentencing guidelines second degree murder and obstruction of justice. Slager could have been sentenced to life imprisonment, but prosecutors said that, as part of the agreement with the prosecution, they would recommend that he reduce his sentence due to his "acceptance of responsibility," provided he did not seek to minimize that acceptance.
In a memorandum of judgment filed last month, prosecutors argued that Slager did not appear to be taking full responsibility, and as a result, did not feel he should receive A minor Slager's lawyers argued against that in his own submission, writing that the former officer accepted the responsibility and "has not said anything that contradicts the factual basis of the offense contained in the plea agreement." They argued that the federal prosecutors focused only on "their irrational goal of Slager spending the rest of his life in prison."
Slager's lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the sentence on Thursday.
among the highest profile police shootings in recent years due to the graphic video that emerged later. In the recording, which was captured by a passerby, Scott, 50, was seen rushing when the officer fired a volley of bullets at the driver.
The video quickly bounced around the Internet and on news stations, and Slager was arrested and fired from his police force.
Slager said he feared for his life during the meeting. In another video recording, it was taken by the camera of the Slager board when the traffic stop was launched, the two men could be seen interacting before Scott got out of his car and fled. Slager is listened to in a police radio informing a description of Scott before shouting: "Taser, Taser, Taser!"
A video showing the shooting was played during the murder trial last year in Charleston, SC (Grace Beahm / Post and Courier via AP)
During the trial, Slager testified that he was scared and felt "a fear total that Mr. Scott came to me. " The former officer also said he tried to subdue Scott and that the driver had grabbed his. Taser during a fight.
When a prosecutor asked him if he agreed that Scott was unarmed and fleeing, Slager testified that he had not realized that the Taser had been left behind when he fired the fatal shots.
Slager said that at that time, he did not think Slager was unarmed, but he realized after watching the video. The viewer's video also shows Slager placing an object, his Taser, near Scott's body after the shooting.
Officers are rarely charged with fatal shootings, although that number has increased in recent years amid intense scrutiny and protests. that have exploded throughout the country. Experts attribute the increase in prosecutions to a combination of more video evidence and mounting political pressure.
Convictions in such cases remain infrequent. During a single week last June, three police officers who had been accused of high-profile shootings captured on video were not convicted; two were acquitted and the null judgment was annulled in a third case.
The law firm of Andrew J. Savage III, a lawyer for Slager, had described the federal charges against Slager as "very extreme" when they were announced and suggested that they were motivated by "the burden of many past cases that were handled in a different way. "
Although the videos that become viral can be horrifying, experts warn that such filming may be incomplete and observe that the legal standard remains if the actions of an officer were "Objectively reasonable" at that time.
David A. Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert in the use of force by the police, said that this standard tends to favor the police. In an interview earlier this year, Harris said juries also tend to give officers "the benefit of the doubt" in most cases.
This story, first published at 12:28 p.m. M., It has been updated.
The Washington Post's 2017 police shootings database
& # 39; I was scared & # 39 ;: SC officer prosecuted for murder when shooting at a unarmed black man takes the stand
Former police officer SC pleads guilty to fatal shots captured on video