Former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager has been sentenced to 20 years after pleading guilty to Federal civil rights charges in the April 2015 killing of Walter Scott, reports ABC News and other sources.

The sentence was based upon Slager’s pleading guilty to a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 242, Deprivation of Rights Under Color of Law.  The maximum sentence for this offense is life in prison.

In recent days Federal prosecutors had begun to argue for that maximum sentence, purportedly on the grounds that Slager had begun to publicly waffle on whether he had truly committed the misconduct described in his plea agreement.

Slager had previously been tried for murder in state court for the killing, but that case resulted in a mistrial when the jury was unable to arrive at a unanimous verdict.  He was scheduled to be re-tried in state court and to also be tried in Federal court on civil rights charges when he abruptly arranged for a plea with Federal prosecutors that effectively resolved both venues.  A conviction on the state murder charge would almost certainly have resulted in a life sentence.

It is noteworthy that as a Federal sentence it is virtually certain that Slager will serve almost the entirety of the 19-24 years.  Although it is not uncommon for individual states to release convicts after having served as little a third of their sentence, based upon time credited for good behavior while incarcerated, Federal sentences provide little opportunity for such sentence reductions.  Federal time is real time, as they say.

Legal Insurrection covered the Slager case from the very beginning, as well as periodically over the intervening two-and-a-half years, including:

Cop Shoots Fleeing Unarmed Black Man, Charged With Murder (April 8, 2015; Andrew Branca)

Dash Cam Footage of Walter Scott Shooting Released (April 10, 2015; Amy Miller)

On shooting fleeing suspects (April 11, 2015; neo-neocon)

Walter Scott Verdict Watch: MISTRIAL DECLARED  (December 5, 2015; William Jacobson)

Michael Slager Takes Federal Plea In Walter Scott Shooting Death (May 2, 2017; Andrew Branca)


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


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