The former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager who killed unarmed black veteran, Walter Scott, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.
On Thursday (Dec 6), US District Court Judge David Norton made his decision after hearing victim impact statements from Scott’s relatives, stating the “appropriate underlying offense” for Slager, who is white, was second-degree murder and suggested a sentence of 19 to 24 years in prison.
According to reports, Norton said that Slager took Scott’s life “out of malice,” and that “No matter what sentence I give, neither the Scott family nor the Slager family is going to like it or think it’s right.”
In May, Slager pleaded guilty to Deprivation of Rights Under Color Of Law, a federal civil rights charge, in exchange for dropping the two other federal charges and the original state murder charges he was facing after his December state trial ended in a mistrial. Jurors at the time stated they had difficulty convicting Slager because they couldn’t agree that he had “committed a crime.”
Slager shot Scott five times in the back “for running away, simply for having a broken taillight,” federal prosecutor Jared Fishman told the court in his closing statement this week. It’s “time to call it what it was — a murder,” Fishman said, specifying second-degree murder.
The civil rights charge carries a potential sentence of anywhere between no time to life. Federal prosecutors sought a life sentence for Slager, arguing he had committed second-degree murder and also should be punished for obstructing justice by providing the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division with false statements, but defense attorney Andy Savage argued that while Slager’s actions were criminal, they did not amount to murder. The appropriate offense was voluntary manslaughter, Slager’s attorneys said.
As if the mistrial and removal of murder charge weren’t enough; a probation officer had recommended Slager be sentenced to 10 to 13 years in prison.
“I think everybody’s just ready to close this chapter of life and start the next chapter. But all of them end the same way, and that is that Walter’s not here,” Justin Bamberg, an attorney for the Scott family, told the Associated Press. While the family wants closure and whatever amount of time the judge give the ex-cop, Bamberg said Slager deserves life behind bars.
Slager is set to being his sentence immediately.