Michael Slager’s Sentencing to Mark End of Still-Contested Courtroom Battle in Walter Scott Killing

Michael Slager’s loved ones recently saw the former North Charleston policeman in jail, and they left with his clothes.

It might be one of the last times in years that Slager will see them beyond the walls of a federal prison.

How long it will take before he emerges a free man is a question expected to be revealed this week.

“I handed his personal belongings to his father,” said his attorney, Andy Savage, “and I think that was a realization that it’s coming. He’s anxious to find out what his future is going to be.”

A sentencing hearing that starts Monday in downtown Charleston should be the final courtroom chapter in the 2015 shooting of Walter Scott, a black motorist whose death sparked scrutiny of the North Charleston Police Department amid a nationwide inspection of police killings.

After his murder trial in state court prompted a hung jury a year ago, the 36-year-old Slager pleaded guilty this spring in federal court to violating Scott’s civil rights by using excessive force.

The wide range of possible punishment has made the ultimate outcome impossible to predict.

A report prepared by a probation officer recommended to U.S. District Judge David Norton a prison term of between 10 and nearly 13 years. Prosecutors disagreed, pegging the suggested term at life, though numerous factors make that penalty unlikely.

Defense lawyers think Scott’s conduct — grabbing the officer’s Taser during a fight, they allege — contributed to Slager’s initial decision to shoot, and that he deserves a lighter sentence than federal guidelines call for.

Slager’s fate, though, rests squarely in Norton’s hands, who by law can opt for as little as no prison time to as much as life.

To Scott family lawyer Justin Bamberg, a state representative, five to 10 years in prison would not be enough to punish Slager and deter other police officers from doing the same.

“Justice for Walter Scott isn’t just Michael Slager going to jail,” he said. “Other officers need to realize they can’t do this. … That is what justice will look like.”

Scott’s older brother, Anthony, hopes to see Slager spend at least two decades in prison.

“This judge has an opportunity to set a precedent,” Anthony Scott said, “to tell police officers that they aren’t going to get away with murder.”

Slager stopped Walter Scott’s car on April 4, 2015, for a broken brake light.

Before Slager learned that he was wanted for not paying child support, the 50-year-old Scott jumped from the 1990 Mercedes-Benz and ran. Slager chased him.

What ensued remains hotly contested.

Slager’s attempts to halt Scott with a Taser did not work.

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