Former Charleston, South Carolina, Officer Michael Slager, 35, on Tuesday admitted violating Walter Scott’s civil rights by shooting him without justification.
Slager’s plea deal Tuesday with federal and SC prosecutors closes both cases against him in the fatal shooting of Walter Scott.
The Post and Courier newspaper in Charleston and the Washington Post, citing unnamed sources familiar with the case, reported Slager’s plans to enter a guilty plea at a hearing scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
Slager, however, could still face a life sentence when he is sentenced by a federal judge, the AP notes. Michael Slager could get life in prison or as little as probation.
Stewart spoke after Slager pleaded guilty in federal court to violating Scott’s civil rights.
“While certainly the State charges (of murder) addressed the killing of Mr. Scott, they did not squarely address the violation of Mr. Scott’s civil rights by a police officer acting under color of law”. The incident was caught on a cell phone video by a passer-by and, within days, played repeatedly on national television news shows and state media Internet sites. That’s when Slager pulled out his service weapon and fired at Scott eight times.
Scott’s family wiped away tears as the details of the case were recited in court. After he placed an injured Walter Scott in handcuffs, Slager the threw his taser beside Scott as he lay at his feet dying.
Though Slager’s plea deal doesn’t mention race, it does acknowledge that Slager’s “actions were done willfully, that he acted voluntarily and intentionally and with specific intent to do something that the law forbids”. “It’s not over”, Scott’s mother, Judy, said outside the courthouse at the time. The 37-year-old black man was killed by police while selling CDs outside a convenience store.
Scott says when he saw the video of the shooting captured by Feidin Santanna, it only confirmed his suspicions. Scott’s death sparked renewed “Black Lives Matter” protests after the 50-year-old became the latest in a series of unarmed black men killed by police.
In December, a lone jury member in the state case prevented a murder conviction, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial and plan for a new trial.
In a copy of the plea agreement obtained by CNN, two federal charges will be dropped as part of the deal: one count of obstruction of justice and one count of use of a firearm during a crime of violence. Scott ran away before the two grappled over the stun gun, the former officer said.
Slager made his statements before he knew of the bystander’s video.
In the state trial, Slager told the defense that the whole ordeal has “been a nightmare”.
Beth Drake, U.S. attorney for SC, praised Scott’s family. “I love my son”.
“My role is to hold criminals accountable, regardless of their profession”.
But policing experts see signs that police departments are reacting more quickly to charges of officer misconduct – a model that can be traced back to North Charleston’s swift decision to fire Slager after Scott’s death. Some despaired of ever seeing justice.