Former Charleston Police Officer Who Shot Walter Scott Pleads Guilty

Michael T. Slager, right, arriving at court in Charleston, S.C., in December. (Chuck Burton/Associated Press)

More than two years after a North Charleston, S.C., police officer fired eight rounds to the back of a fleeing and unarmed black motorist whose burst of gunfire was recorded on video, the officer stood in a federal courtroom on Tuesday to plead guilty to charges that he violated the slain man’s civil rights.

The plea by the officer, Michael T. Slager, assured a rare conviction of a law enforcement official for an on-duty killing, and it left him facing the possibility of life in prison for the April 2015 shooting of Walter L. Scott. Mr. Slager pleaded guilty to a single charge of willfully using excessive force to deprive Mr. Scott of his civil rights.

“We asked for justice,” Anthony Scott, one of Mr. Scott’s brothers, said. “We received justice.”

Mr. Slager said little during a brief hearing in United States District Court here, but he acknowledged the factual basis for the plea agreement, which said he had “used deadly force even though it was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances.”

Minutes later, as Mr. Slager was led from the courtroom in handcuffs, he passed crying members of Mr. Scott’s family. Across the courtroom’s center aisle, members of Mr. Slager’s family stood silently and tearfully.

The plea deal effectively resolves all of the pending charges against Mr. Slager, 35, who had also been indicted on a charge of murder in state court. While the arrangement offers certain benefits to Mr. Slager, such as a possible reduction under federal sentencing guidelines for acceptance of responsibility, the agreement is mostly a victory for people who have spent years raising alarms about police conduct in the nation.

Under the plea agreement, prosecutors will ask the court to apply sentencing guidelines that in effect would be for a second-degree murder charge. Notably, the deal expressly allows prosecutors to urge Judge David C. Norton, who did not immediately set a sentencing hearing, to order Mr. Slager to spend the rest of his life in prison.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Alan Blinder