A white former police officer who shot an unarmed black man to death in the back as he fled a traffic stop never had any “racial animus” toward minorities in the community, his attorney said Monday.
The sentencing hearing for ex-officer Michael Slager opened up with his attorneys playing cellphone and dashcam video that showed the traffic stop and the shooting itself. Slager’s attorneys think the videos show him acting in a calm, professional demeanor leading up to the fatal shooting of Walter Scott. Prosecutors believe the videos depict the officer’s callous behavior.
36-year-old Slager, pleaded guilty in federal court in May to violating Scott’s civil rights by shooting Scott without justification. He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced by a judge, perhaps as soon as this week. Federal sentencing officials have recommended between 10 to nearly 13 years in prison.
“There’s nothing in Michael Slager’s background, from birth to today, of any racial animus or any harassment of minority members of the community,” his attorney Andy Savage said, countering assertions that the officer acted violently because Scott was black.
Slager, a former North Charleston officer, pulled Scott over on April 4, 2015, for a broken brake light. He said he shot the 50-year-old black motorist in self-defense after Scott tried to grab his Taser.
The sentencing hearing reconvenes Tuesday morning and could last several days. At the end of it, a judge will decide whether he thinks the civil rights violation was voluntary manslaughter or murder. Prosecutors think it’s murder, making Slager eligible for a life sentence. Defense attorneys say Slager, who has been in jail since May, deserves a far lesser sentence, in part because he has accepted responsibility for the shooting.