Wednesday, 24 April, 2019

Chicago officers not guilty of cover-up in McDonald's shooting death

Obtained by ABC News Laquan McDonald Obtained by ABC News Laquan McDonald
Patty Aguilar | 21 January, 2019, 14:35

A judge on Friday sentenced white former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke to almost seven years in prison after a landmark verdict last fall found him guilty of murder in the 2014 shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald.

Jason Van Dyke was convicted in October of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery.

To bolster the case for probation, the defense team had called almost a dozen relatives and cops to speak about Van Dyke's personal life and police work. The prison term was a fraction of what Van Dyke could have faced had he been convicted of first-degree murder, which carried a mandatory minimum of 45 years in prison.

Friday's sentence comes one day after three former and current policemen who were accused of helping to cover up the killing were found not guilty by a different Chicago judge.

This is a developing story.

The sentencing follows Thursday's acquittal of three other Chicago police officers on charges they conspired to protect Van Dyke in the case. Appointed special prosecutor when then-Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez recused herself and her office from the politically charged case, the career prosecutor strikes a far calmer, less flashy figure in court than Herbert, who routinely verbally spars with the judge.

Vidale Joy said Van Dyke made a racist comment after pulling him over in 2005 and at one point put a gun to Joy's head.

The shooting was captured on an infamous police dashcam video that showed McDonald, who was carrying a knife with a 3-inch blade, walking away from Van Dyke just before the officer shot him 16 times on October 20, 2014. While awaiting an officer to arrive with a Taser, Van Dyke shot McDonald, according to testimony.

That decision drew the ire of local activists, who called for a large crowd to return to the courthouse for Van Dyke's sentence. His 12-year-old daughter also wrote a letter that was read in court.

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In his closing argument, prosecutor Joseph McMahon said between 18 and 20 years was an appropriate sentence and probation requested by the defense was not.

Under cross-examination, though, Joy acknowledged that he did not allege Van Dyke used a slur in his first accounts of the stop.

But the dashcam video - which a judge ordered the city to release 13 months after the shooting - showed McDonald walking away from police, rather than charging at them.

Stephenson accepted the argument that jurors in the Van Dyke case rejected: that the video that sparked protests and a federal investigation of the police force was just one perspective of the events that unfolded on the South Side.

The judge further elaborated to say that she could see why the "officers reasonably believed an attack was imminent", further adding that McDonald continued to move after being shot. Emanuel is not running in next month's mayoral election. The court-ordered release of a video of the incident, taken from a camera mounted on the dashboard of Van Dyke's police auto, prompted anger throughout Chicago and led to racially charged protests police reforms.

"The evidence shows just the opposite", she said.

In 2014, officers responded to a call about a man breaking into trucks in a parking lot.

"The defendants allegedly lied about what occurred and mischaracterised the video recordings so that independent criminal investigators would not learn the truth about the killing and the public would not see the video recordings", they said when charges were announced in June 2017.

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