Image 01 Image 03

Federal Court Sentences Michael Slager to 20 Years for Killing of Walter Scott

Federal Court Sentences Michael Slager to 20 Years for Killing of Walter Scott

Slager avoids Federal life sentence, but was sentenced to 20 years

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.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.




And all the internet forensic “experts” go down in flames.


But they will predictably be back again.

    Milhouse in reply to Ragspierre. | December 7, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    I don’t see how you can go that far. A guilty plea doesn’t mean a defendant is guilty, it just means that he estimates the chance of conviction to be high enough to justify the deal he’s been offered, even if the price demanded includes perjury. I’m not saying that’s what happened here, but it’s possibile, so this outcome does not refute the “experts”.

      Ragspierre in reply to Milhouse. | December 7, 2017 at 3:45 pm

      1. He was NOT offered a “deal”. He pled out WITHOUT a deal, IIRC.

      2. If you were he, or his attorneys, and you thought there was ANY merit to the “experts” on the internet, would you be inclined to plead out, given the range of sentences you were facing?

      They were stupidly wrong. So are you.

        The “deal” was that SC dismissed all charges against Slager, in exchange for his guilty plea on federal charges.

        I’ll agree that this plea deal was ridiculous. It was almost assured that he would not have been convicted in a subsequent trial in state court, though it could have happened. And, there is a very good chance that he would not have been convicted in federal court, either.

        This case was not cut and dried in either direction. Slager did shoot Scott in the back, while he was unarmed, some three seconds after Scott had disengaged from his second, or possibly third, violent resistance to arrest. From the footage shot, it appears that Scoot had obtained Slager’s taser and it discharged with one, or possibly both, darts striking Slager. So, there are all kinds of mitigating circumstances where by Slager would have been justified in shooting a fleeing felon who had violently resisted arrest and who Slager may have reasonably believed to still be armed with Slager’s taser. I would have taken my chances in court. But, for whatever reason, Slager chose to accept this horrible plea deal. Now, if the feds honor the deal, he is looking at 15 years, minus time served, incarceration and five years supervised release.

    amatuerwrangler in reply to Ragspierre. | December 8, 2017 at 3:04 am

    Slager may have “feared for his life” when the two of them were actually engaged in combat, regardless of who controlled the taser, but when Scott took flight all that changed. Look at the photo featured in the post: they are separated by maybe 30 feet and that distance is increasing (Scott running, Slager stationary and aiming). Scott is not a threat to Slager at this point.

    The “internet forensics” may have had value if the shooting occurred when the combatants were physically engaged, but at this distance they are of little value other than possibly supporting the officer’s mental state as a component of intent.

      Let me explain something, once again. The rules for the use of deadly force are different for a LEO than they are for a civilian.

      In almost all states, a civilian can only use deadly force to stop an attack which is likely to produce death or great bodily harm or to stop a forcible felony. I believe this is the case in SC, but I have not researched that states use of force statutes. Under those laws, shooting Scott, in the manner that Slager did, would make the legality of the action extremely questionable. In most states, a robbery is considered a forcible felony and encompasses the act itself as well as flight from the act. Taking the taser by force, would constitute robbery. Under those conditions, the shooting might have been ruled justifiable. Or not, depending upon a jury.

      However, when this involves a LEO, most states, as well as federal law and case law, allow a LEO to use deadly force to stop the escape of a fleeing violent felon. This is based upon the reasonable assumption that such a person will pose a threat, both immediate and long term, to the general public, if he is allowed to escape custody. In this case, Scott committed several felonies, all of which would be considered violent. He violently resisted a physical arrest on two, or three occasions, during the chase. One of which involved the taking of Slager’s taser and discharging it at the officer. This constitutes at least three and probably five violent felonies; 2 counts of resisting arrest with violence, two counts of battery LEO, and one count of depriving a LEO of his weapon. We can throw in one count of robbery for taking the weapon, if you like. This should be sufficient to effectively argue that Slager’s actions were justified under law.

      As I said, I would not have accepted the federal plea deal. A halfway decent attorney should have been able to keep Slager from ever being convicted.

Not surprised, but I still think his training did both of them in.

I think this is a fair outcome. Thanks for covering it Andrew.

Also, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family.

I just did a quick internet search to see if I could find any BLM leaders, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or any of the other grievance industry executives praising this verdict. Not surprisingly all I could find was a Youtube video of crickets chirping.

Justice is (more or less) done.

This officer was sold down the river. Within hours of the shooting, his own police force, the mayor, the State, everyone… completely screwed this guy for doing his job… as he’d been trained. It was all about preventing riots and catering to the Obama DOJ.

I’m surprised that you haven’t gotten to Korryn Gaines.
OTOH she has not garnered a lot of press, which I am certain is a good sign.

But I’m also worried by the “I don’t participate attitude” stuff in the video of her original encounter with police.

Welcome back, it’s been a while!

Char Char Binks | December 7, 2017 at 5:53 pm

Trump should pardon Slager, at least by his last day in office. The man fought a dangerous felon who wrestled him to the ground and took his taser. Maybe he overstepped, but he was doing his duty. Slager is hated for purely political reasons.

    Actually, he didn’t “take” the TASER…he may have tried to, but the result was he knocked it out of the Officer’s hand(s).

    The Officer likely THOUGHT he had taken the TASER though, and – in compliance with his training – he responded to what he had been trained was an unequivocal deadly force situation. Unfortunately,the circumstance weren’t what he perceived them to be.

    In fact, it appears that it was the TASER the Officer picked-up and moved to the vicinity of the body of the deceased.

    A foolish move, not likely pre-conceived, just an panicked response to the realization of his misperception that lead to his potentially inappropriate use of lethal force.

      Mac45 in reply to MJN1957. | December 8, 2017 at 11:58 am

      Let’s take the taser part of this.

      During the last violent confrontation between Slager and Scott, the taser was taken by Scott and discharged in the direction of Slager. Frame-by-frame examination of the video shows at least one wire running from the taser to Slager’s body. The taser is knocked from Scott’s hand and lands on the ground to Slager’s left and slightly behind him. Scott then catches his foot in the wire trailing from the taser as he runs away. The question then becomes, was Slager stunned at all by the taser? If so, it is not only possible, but likely that his thought processes were jumbled. But, if they were not, it is also entirely possibly that he did not know of the location of the taser when he fired the shots. A belief that Scott still had the taser is reasonable under those circumstances.

      Now, picking up the taser is not that big a deal and not a significant indication that Slager believed that he did anything wrong and was trying to cover it up. Again, we do not know when Slager became aware of the location of the taser. Nor are we aware of whether either dart was still attached to his body. Picking up discarded equipment is trained into every LEO in the world. It is part of their training. Some department now teach their personnel to leave magazines and spent cartridges where they fall. But, some still adhere to the old school of allowing their personnel to pick up magazines and shell casings immediately after they shoot. We do not know what habits Slager has in this regard. Also, It may never have occurred to Slager that the location of the taser would prove to be important. After all, he was not going to stand rooted in the spot that he shot from and he did not know that the incident was being recorded. It is dangerous to make assumptions based upon a single act for which a number of innocent reason may exist.

      Let me address one other assumption that came up during this investigation. That was the fact that Slager intended to kill Scott because he fired 8 rounds. Once again we have to look to training. In the current era of the high-capacity handgun, most departments train their personnel to fire on the attacker until he goes down. This usually results in a single LEO firing a high number of rounds at the target.

      However, as I said previously. The mere fact that Scott was a fleeing violent felon was sufficient justification to use deadly force, in my opinion..

        Gremlin1974 in reply to Mac45. | December 9, 2017 at 2:57 pm

        Not sure I can agree with the “fleeing violent felon” justification, at the very least I think it would be a misuse of that caveat.

        I don’t think that is what was meant by “fleeing violent felon” I see that more as a caveat for suspects in major crimes such as murder and rape, not a simple confrontation with an officer by a man with no prior violent felonies, especially one that is trying to run from the confrontation and honestly from the video was only fighting to get away, not fighting to harm the cop.

        Frankly, I think Slager should thank his lucky stars that he only got 20 years and I have no problem with it.

      Char Char Binks in reply to MJN1957. | December 10, 2017 at 4:31 pm

      If Scott knocked the taser “out of the Officer’s hand(s)”, as he most certainly did, that means he TOOK the Taser FROM HIM. I never said he “took the taser and kept possession of it while running away”, and neither did Officer Slager.

      If someone steals your car and immediately crashes it in a ditch and runs off on foot, does that mean he never took the car? Did you learn English as a second language?

A cop in jail for 20 years for shooting a black man in the back, might as well be the death penalty, he will be dead in less than a year.

They should subtract a year for every time an innocent policeman was shot in the back by a felon.

If only Joseph Walker received the support and sympathy that Michael Slager received and is receiving at LI.

    Mac45 in reply to m1. | December 8, 2017 at 4:02 pm

    If you are speaking of Joseph Walker the NJ parole officer involved in the shooting in maryland, I always felt and stated that Walker was in the right and that he was basically railroaded by the county prosecutor.

    The prosecutor contended that Walker had not exhausted all his options to retreat from the initial confrontation with the two yahoos in the car and therefor was not entitled to use deadly force. I repeated said that the case would boil down to the question of just how far Walker was supposed to drive, while being pursued, before he had reasonably exhausted all avenues of escape. My feeling was that he had driven several miles and to continue the mobile evasion would have eventually led to a crash. I also felt that, Walker’s assailants advanced into a drawn and aimed firearm, they demonstrated a clear intent to cause Walker, and possibly his family, death or great bodily harm.

    Walker was subsequently acquitted and rightfully so.

      Gremlin1974 in reply to Mac45. | December 9, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      Pay no attention to the basement troll he posts the same comment on every self defense case. I personally believe that Walker got away with murder because he was a black cop and the DA overcharged.

      Oh, btw both of your “feelings’ are wrong. They drove less than a mile and in fact never made it onto I-97 proper. Also, not even Walker said that Harvey “advanced into a drawn and aimed firearm”. In fact Walker claimed not to have noticed Harvey until Harvey had crossed almost 100 feet of ground to get to where Walker was stopped. Well depending on which version of Walkers’ testimony you choose to believe he may or may not have given a verbal warning. But either way Walker said he did not notice Harvey until he with well with the 21 foot danger zone.

      But it is neither here nor there, he was acquitted by a jury of his peers and that means he is innocent and the jury is right, even when I disagree.

        I guess you forgot my support of the old California man who killed one of his attackers. Even though the broad he shot was fleeing,she still deserve it,because she and her mate shouldn’t have burgled and robbed the old guy.

        I bring up Walker because that case showed the racial double standard in application of deadly force here at LI. Harvey could’ve just driven home ,the same way most of you say Walker could’ve driven away. Harvey chose not to,thus he became a bullet sponge.

        ” I personally believe that Walker got away with murder because he was a black cop ”

        I knew you were lying when you said that race had nothing to do with your hatred of Walker.

        You finally admit that you believe Walker got away with murder because he’s a black cop.

        I knew all along you, Andrew, Ragspierre, Amy in Fl, JackRussellTerrierist etc. just didn’t like a black cop killing a white person.

        Thank you Gremlin1974 for your honesty.

          Gremlin1974 in reply to m1. | December 11, 2017 at 7:07 pm

          LOL, do I believe that Joseph Walker got sympathy from the jury for being black and facing a racist asshole who had screamed racial slurs at him. Absolutely. So yes him being black had something to do with him being acquitted.

          Which in no way proves that I or anyone else on this site is racist or was against him just because he was black. In fact I held more against him because he was a cop and should have been able to resolve the issue without having to shoot an unarmed man.

          I also don’t believe or a second that Walker stopped and just ignored Harvey’s truck or the fact that it pulled over, got out and continued to scream and come towards his vehicle and just went and checked his tires, like there wasn’t a threat in the area. I also don’t believe that he confused going over a rumble strip for having a flat. I also don’t believe a cop, was oblivious to the asshat that had been trying to run him off of the road while Harvey advanced almost 100 feet towards him? I also hold it against Walker that he nor his wife called 911. What happened was Walker was going to be a bad ass cop, but when that didn’t work he went into “Oh, Shit!” mode. None of which had a damn thing to do with race.

          See just because you care about skin color doesn’t mean that everyone else does so don’t try to project your bigotry onto me.

      Detective Joseph Walker was a investigator for the Hudson County prosecutors officer. Not a parole officer.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to m1. | December 9, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Oh, looks like the internet in mom’s basement got hooked back up. Now remember she like 2 dryer sheets, not just one.

Char Char Binks | December 10, 2017 at 5:11 pm

I supported Walker. I don’t support you.

    I find that very hard to believe. From all the articles Andrew wrote on Walker/Harvey, I don’t recall you leaving a comment defending Walker. If you did,please post it.

      Gremlin1974 in reply to m1. | December 11, 2017 at 7:11 pm

      LOL, well once again you show your own unreliability, what Char Char says is true.

      Char Char Binks in reply to m1. | December 11, 2017 at 7:39 pm

      My statement is easily verifiable. I await your apology.

        @Char Char Binks If your statement is easily verifiable you should be able to link one or several.

          Gremlin1974 in reply to m1. | December 12, 2017 at 5:37 pm

          Because he isn’t beholden to prove a negative for you. Just like many of these accusations of sexual harassment/misconduct, just because someone says something doesn’t mean that the burden shifts to the accused to prove or disprove the accusation. It is up to the accuser to substantiate their claims. In other words just because someone screams the sky is purple there is no obligation to provide proof that the screamer is incorrect.

          Short version just because a troll makes a BS comment/accusation doesn’t mean Char Char or anyone else is beholden to prove that they didn’t do it.

          P.S. BTW, corroboration is a type of “proof” and I have already backed Char Char. Oh, and the Walker thing is getting old, no one really cares anymore so you might want to get some new material.