Monday the sentencing begins for former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager. Earlier this year, the former officer admitted to a charge of using excessive force when he shot and killed Walter Scott, a violation of Scott’s civil rights. Slager had initiated a traffic stop and Scott fled. The chase turned into a physical fight and ultimately the deadly shooting.
The sentencing is likely to take several days.
The prosecutors and the defense haven’t come to an agreement on how long Michael Slager should serve in prison, though Slager plead guilty to the excessive force charge in May. A judge will decide after both sides make their cases as to whether the shooting should be considered murder or manslaughter.
The sentencing could take two to four days. Both sides are likely to call expert witnesses and family members of both Scott and Slager.
Federal prosecutors are pushing for Slager to be sentenced to life in prison alleging he murdered Scott and subsequently obstructed justice by lying to investigators. He also faces weapons charges that could compound the sentence.
The defense calls that sentence “unreasonable”. Slager’s attorneys will argue the sentence should be 10 to12 years for manslaughter and are even asking for a variance for a shorter term in prison. Attorney Andy Savage told News 2 Slager’s actions fall under the offence of manslaughter because had no malice or aforethought when he shot Scott. Savage alleges Slager was acting out of fear for his own life.
As for a special variance to lessen the sentence, the defense plans to ask the judge to consider the burden Slager has been under defending charges at the state and federal level. They will also present concerns about the conditions of his time in prison. He would likely be kept in solitary confinement because of the publicity of the case and his law enforcement career, according to this attorney.
Slager’s state trial for murder ended in a hung jury late last year. The charges were dismissed at the state level as part of Slager’s plea deal for admitting guilt in federal court.
The state prosecutor who pursued the murder charges, Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, said in a statement that she is satisfied with the case’s resolution. She said it “vindicates the state’s interests” by holding Slager accountable.
Slager pulled Scott over on April 4, 2015, because of a broken brake light. Scott’s family said he may have bolted because he was worried about going to jail because he was $18,000 behind on child support. A fight ensued and Slager says Scott tried to take his Taser. An autopsy showed Scott also had drugs in his blood stream.
Slager, who was fired after the video of the shooting became public, testified at his state murder trial that he feared for his life because Scott was trying to grab his weapon.