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Michael Slager Takes Federal Plea In Walter Scott Shooting Death

Michael Slager Takes Federal Plea In Walter Scott Shooting Death

Civil rights violation plea allows former officer to avoid state murder trial

Former police officer Michael Slager has accepted a Federal plea bargain deal in which he concedes to having violated the civil rights of Walter Scott when he fatally shot Scott five times as the apparently unarmed Scott fled from him.  The shooting occurred in April 2015 in Charleston SC.  Slager is white and Scott was black.  A copy of the plea deal is embedded below.

We previously covered this case at Legal Insurrection in several posts:

Cop Shoots Fleeing Unarmed Black Man, Charged With Murder

Dash Cam Footage of Walter Scott Shooting Released


The plea arrangement, as reported by the LA Times and other sources, purportedly allows Slager to avoid being re-tried on murder charges in state court.

His first murder trial ended inconclusively with a hung jury this past December, and Slager was scheduled to be retried this month.  The deal also appears to hold out that prospect that Slager might receive a less than life sentence from the Federal court. Naturally, this also means that his sentence will be served in Federal, rather than state, prison, a factor that may have played a substantial role in Slager’s agreeing to the deal.

The Slager case was unusual from most of the prominently reported police shootings of black suspects in recent years in several respects. First, the shooting was captured on cell phone video (embedded below). Second, it appeared that Scott was not presenting a threat of death or grave bodily injury to anyone at the moment he was shot.  Third, Slager appears to have dissembled in his recounting of events around the shooting.

The unedited video can be viewed below. Note that it shows the shooting and Scott’s apparent death, and includes some modest profanity.

As promised, here’s the plea agreement:


Andrew F. Branca is an attorney and the author of The Law of Self Defense, 3rd Edition, and a host on The Outdoor Channel’s TV show, The Best Defense.


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Sorry, I’m unclear on how a plea bargain for federal charges immunizes anyone from different state charges.

Ragspierre | May 2, 2017 at 4:46 pm

As I often point out, I don’t do criminal law. But this seems like a “guilty” agreement where Slager is basically putting himself at the Federal court’s mercy.

This is consistent with what I said at the beginning. He screwed the pooch.

Common Sense | May 2, 2017 at 4:52 pm

“Civil rights violation plea allows former officer to avoid state murder trial”

The entire shooting is on video and the state can not get a murder conviction? Stunning………..

Common Sense

The enhanced video and testimony showed they were tangled up in the taser wires . As Scott runs away ,the taser cartridge can be seen bouncing behind him , The handle portion of the taser fell behind Slager . There were also marks on Slagers uniform indicating he was tasered . He had fought the man several time leading up to the final altercation.
Whether he was legally guilty ,I don’t know , but the whole story was enough to create enough reasonable doubt that more than a few held out for acquittal.
RE, the Rodney King video , the jury heard and saw more than we did
You must also remember the original struggle was ” left off” the released video . How convenient. ?

    Char Char Binks in reply to dmi60ex. | May 2, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    Notice the plea agreement says only that Scott fell to the ground, not that he was fighting Slager on the ground, as the video definitely shows. It also says the taser “fell”, when it’s most likely that Scott took it from Slager and threw it. This is a bad day for justice.

Probably the best deal all around.

This case entails behavior, on the part of the deceased, beginning several minutes before the portion of the incident caught on the video. During that time, the deceased committed several felonious attacks upon the person of Officer Slager. Coupled with the fact that the deceased disarmed Slager, of his taser, just prior to running away and being shot, which could provide greater justification for using deadly force against the deceased [if Slager thought that he still had possession of it], gaining a conviction for a state charge of homicide is going to continue to be difficult. Gaining a federal conviction for a civil rights violation would also be difficult. But, the portion of the incident caught on the video is very compelling for a possible conviction. Slager received a guarantee against future state prosecution and, I’m sure, and agreement in principle, from the federal prosecutor, that he will not have to serve very much prison time.

    tom swift in reply to Mac45. | May 3, 2017 at 2:33 am

    During that time, the deceased committed several felonious attacks upon the person of Officer Slager.

    Had he been shot to death while engaged in such attacks, there’d be no problem.

    But that’s not what happened. When he was shot, he presented no imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm to anyone. So self-defense is entirely out of the question. Unless something relevant isn’t shown in the video—say, a weapons stash he was running toward.

      Mac45 in reply to tom swift. | May 4, 2017 at 12:02 pm

      If the deceased had been shot while actively attacking Slager, it MAY have been perceived as justified. You are correct that it would probably have been legally justified.

      However, self defense is no the only legal justification for the use of deadly force in this case. Slager was a LEO, in the lawful performance of his duties. At the time of the shooting, he was attempting to apprehend a person who had already physically attacked him at least twice. One of those time may have been with the officer’s tazer. So, he was now a fleeing violent felon. And, one who showed no hesitation in using force against a uniformed LEO. It is not unreasonable for a reasonable person to believe that if the deceased had succeeded in escaping, he would have posed a significant danger to the populous as well as any LEO whom he encountered. And state and federal law, as well as federal judicial decisions allow a LEO to utilize deadly force to stop the escape of a fleeing felon who is presumed to present a significant danger to the populous. This what makes this an argument for justification quite strong.

      However, there is a significant emotional component presented by the video. Taken alone, and out of context, it makes a strong case for unlawful use of force. However, when viewed in the totality of the incident, it loses a great deal objective weight.

Charleston, not Charlotte.

Char Char Binks | May 2, 2017 at 6:50 pm

Scott was a dangerous, fleeing felon, the SJWs favorite kind.

Gremlin1974 | May 2, 2017 at 7:15 pm

Not what I expected but depending on the sentence this could be ok. I never felt good about this shooting, though I tend to give officers the benefit of the doubt.

This was never a clearly justified shooting. But, given the totality of the circumstances at the time, a good case can be made that it was legally justified.

But, Slager had been through one trial. He was scheduled for another, in state court. And, probably one in federal court. Given the video, it is unlikely that he would have been acquitted in any jury trial. So, he was potentially looking at continual trials for the next decade, without ever being acquitted. He is probably broke now and would only further destroy his life if he continued to fight these charges. So, he took a plea of convenience. And, unless his attorney is a fool, he has some written guarantee, regarding length and condition of sentence, which will rear up at the sentencing phase.

Sometimes you have to fold your hand and cut your losses.

I spent my first ten years on active duty, then went into the reserves. Then 9/11 and another 3 years on active duty.

In the reserves, for some reason, the Navy assigns all the cops to intel units. I recall one cop, a National City police officer, telling me how much it broke his heart to have to arrest a Sailor or Marine for DUI. Being a National City cop he arrested his share, as the road to Tijuana passed right through his jurisdiction. And I could tell from his voice that he felt every word. But he would do it, and did do it, because it was his duty.

I feel much the same way, learning about this former police officer’s guilty plea. It breaks my heart, he was supposed to be one of the good guys, the white hats. But you can not allow anyone to s*** where you eat.

Sad day. I understand Slager being worn down and unable to risk worse, but this was a railroad. BLM/Obama DOJ heavy-handed persecution of a police officer. Justice was not served by this “deal”.

There is another intangible that hasn’t been discussed here. Given the choice of spending 6-10 years in a state prison in South Carolina, or spending the same amount of time in a medium security federal prison, you have to go with the Fed.

(Because his violation included the use of a weapon, I don’t think Slager will ever qualify for a minimum security facility.)

Lots of down votes here. That you, M1?

JusticeDelivered | May 3, 2017 at 10:24 am

There have been so many prosecutions driven by organized propaganda that I assume that the perp is guilty until there is really compelling evidence otherwise. This case is not compelling, and I am pretty sure that his being forced to plea is not justice.