Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Nation & World

White ex-cop Michael Slager gets 20 years in prison in fatal shooting of Walter Scott

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A white former South Carolina officer was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Thursday for fatally shooting an unarmed black motorist in the back in 2015, wrapping up a case that became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Attorneys for ex-North Charleston Officer Michael Slager said he shot 50-year-old Walter Scott in self-defense after the two fought and Scott grabbed Slager’s stun gun. They said race didn’t play a role in the shooting and Slager never had any "racial animus" toward minorities.

Still, Slager pleaded guilty in federal court to violating Scott’s civil rights. As part of the plea agreement reached in May, prosecutors dropped state murder charges. A year ago, a state judge declared a mistrial when jurors deadlocked in that case.

"This is a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened," U.S. District Judge David Norton said.

A bystander recorded the shooting on a cellphone, and it was shared around the world, setting off protests across the U.S. as demonstrators said it was another egregious example of police officers mistreating African-Americans.

Slager fired at Scott’s back from 17 feet away. Five of eight bullets hit him.

The video 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.

When the jury failed to reach a verdict in the state murder case, many black people and others were shocked and distressed, because the video seemed to some to be an open-and-shut case. Some despaired of ever seeing justice.

Scott’s family testified before the sentence was handed down and said they had forgiven Slager.

"I’m not angry at you, Michael. Michael, I forgive you, and Michael, I do pray for you now and for your family, because we’ve gone through a traumatic time," said Scott’s brother Anthony.

The shooting angered local African-Americans who complained for years that North Charleston police harassed blacks, pulling them over or questioning them unnecessarily as they cracked down on crime. But after the shooting, the Scott family successfully pleaded for calm, asking everyone to let the justice system run its course.

Two months after the shooting, a young white man killed nine black church members in a racially motivated attacked during a Bible study in Charleston. The family members of those victims struck a similar forgiveness tone after that attack.

Before the sentence was handed down, the judge had to decide whether the shooting amounted to second-degree murder or manslaughter. Norton found that it was murder.

"No matter what sentence I give, neither the Scott family nor the Slager family is going to think that it’s right," the judge said.

After the shooting, Slager picked up his stun gun and placed it next to Scott. Slager contends he was securing the weapon. Prosecutors think he put it there to bolster his self-defense story.

An emotional Slager told the Scott family that he was grateful for their forgiveness.

"This tragic event that occurred in seconds has changed the lives of everyone involved," he said. "With my actions that day, Walter Scott is no longer with his family, and I am responsible for that."

The judge also found that Slager, 36, obstructed justice when he made statements to state police after the shooting.

A pre-sentencing report for Slager found that he committed manslaughter and recommended 10 to nearly 13 years in prison. But the judge was not bound by that review.

If Slager had faced another state trial and been convicted of murder, he could have been sentenced to anywhere from 30 years to life in prison.

Convictions in police officer shootings are uncommon in the U.S. and prison time is even rarer.

South Carolina has been aggressive in charging white officers who shoot unarmed black people. Four have pleaded guilty in state or federal court in the past six years. But only Slager and former state trooper Sean Groubert, who shot a man as he tried to get his wallet during a seat belt violation check, will have been sent to prison. Groubert was sentenced to five years behind bars.

Comments
In reversal, Trump signs order stopping family separation

In reversal, Trump signs order stopping family separation

WASHINGTON — Bowing to pressure from anxious allies, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday ending the process of separating children from families after they are detained crossing the U.S. border illegally. It was a dramat...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Watch: Protesters interrupt homeland secretary Nielsen’s dinner at Mexican restaurant

Watch: Protesters interrupt homeland secretary Nielsen’s dinner at Mexican restaurant

WASHINGTON — About a dozen protesters heckled Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen about the Trump administration’s immigration policy as she ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Washington. The protesters entered MXDC Cocina Mexicana Tuesda...
Published: 06/20/18

Apple to set up iPhones to relay location for 911 calls

SAN FRANCISCO — Apple is trying to drag the U.S.’s antiquated system for handling 911 calls into the 21st century. If it lives up to Apple’s promise, the iPhone’s next operating system will automatically deliver quicker and more reliable information ...
Published: 06/18/18
Laura Bush: Separating children from their parents at the border ‘breaks my heart’

Laura Bush: Separating children from their parents at the border ‘breaks my heart’

On Sunday, a day we as a nation set aside to honor fathers and the bonds of family, I was among the millions of Americans who watched images of children who have been torn from their parents.In the six weeks between April 19 and May 31, the Departmen...
Published: 06/18/18
Former U.S. players not cool with Landon Donovan championing Mexico

Former U.S. players not cool with Landon Donovan championing Mexico

MOSCOW — Mexico is in the World Cup, the United States is not, and to former U.S. national team star Landon Donovan, American fans without a rooting interest should support their chief rivals.Saturday morning, in a tweet sponsored by Wells Fargo, Don...
Published: 06/18/18
‘It was either me or the cat’: Georgia woman kills rabid bobcat with her bare hands

‘It was either me or the cat’: Georgia woman kills rabid bobcat with her bare hands

DeDe Phillips grew up in the country, and she knew all about bobcats - including how they kill."They go for your jugular," the Georgia woman recently told OnlineAthens. "[B]ecause when they can get the vein you’re dead in a couple of minutes."That in...
Published: 06/18/18
No mixed-race babies, please: Russian lawmaker tells women to avoid sex with some World Cup visitors

No mixed-race babies, please: Russian lawmaker tells women to avoid sex with some World Cup visitors

On the eve of the World Cup, a Russian lawmaker urged the nation’s women to avoid sexual liaisons with foreigners of different races.Tamara Pletnyova, a lawmaker in the Communist Party and head of a state congressional committee on children and famil...
Published: 06/16/18
Paul Manafort ordered to jail after witness-tampering charges

Paul Manafort ordered to jail after witness-tampering charges

Paul Manafort will be jailed after being accused of witness tampering while awaiting trial on federal conspiracy and money-laundering charges brought by special counsel Robert Mueller III.The order to imprison President Donald Trump’s former campaign...
Published: 06/15/18
US to house migrant children in tents as government takes more into custody

US to house migrant children in tents as government takes more into custody

With the number of migrant children in government custody rising fast, the Trump administration said Thursday that it will open an additional temporary shelter in the desert outside El Paso.The shelter site, at the Tornillo-Marcelino Serna port of en...
Published: 06/15/18

U.S. renews call for Cuba to probe cause of health ‘attacks’

WASHINGTON — The United States on Thursday renewed calls for the Cuban government to determine the source of health "attacks" on U.S. diplomats in Cuba that have affected some two dozen people. At a senior-level meeting with Cuban officials in Washin...
Published: 06/14/18