Sentencing order explains 20-year prison sentence for Michael Slager

Sentencing order explains 20-year prison sentence for Michael Slager
Michael Slager's attorneys have filed the opening brief in his appeal case. (Source: Pool)
Walter Scott. (Source: Facebook)
Walter Scott. (Source: Facebook)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A court order filed Tuesday details the process that resulted in a 20-year prison sentence for former North Charleston Police officer Michael Slager.

Slager was sentenced on Dec. 7 to 20 years in the fatal shooting of motorist Walter Scott on April 4, 2015. Slager pleaded guilty in May 2017 to a federal charge of violating Scott's civil rights under the color of law.

The sentencing order issued by Judge David Norton states four issues were in dispute during the sentencing process.

One issue was whether to use second-degree murder or manslaughter guidelines as the basis for a sentence in this case.

Other issues included whether the sentence should be increased because of an obstruction of justice charge and whether the sentence should be reduced because of Scott's wrongful conduct in provoking the offense, Slager's susceptibility to abuse in prison and the impact of successive state and federal prosecutions.

Prosecutors sought life in prison for second-degree murder while the defense hoped for between 10 to 12 years for manslaughter.

Court transcripts released a week after the sentencing revealed Norton believed Slager committed second-degree murder because he shot an unarmed Scott in the back while Scott was fleeing and lied to state law enforcement officers. That determination meant Norton could sentence Slager to life in prison.

But Norton said additional factors led him to bring the sentence down.

The order explains the court applied second-degree murder as the cross-reference crime for sentencing purposes. It also applied an enhancement to lengthen the sentence for obstruction of justice based on Slager's statements to South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agents three days after the shooting, the document states.

Norton did not allow a reduction based on Scott's behavior but did grant reductions based on Slager's susceptibility to abuse in prison and the successive state and federal prosecution as well as a reduction based on the "spotless life" Slager led prior to the incident, the document states.

Based on all of that information, Norton sentenced Slager to 240 months or 20 years in prison.

On Dec. 20, Slager's attorneys requested the U.S. District Court's clerk file a notice of appeal. That filing stated Slager had not yet received the written order setting the sentence.

Court documents indicate that notice of appeal was officially filed Tuesday.

An appeal date has not yet been set.

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