(NEW YORK) — A former New York City police officer who shot an unarmed man to death won’t face any jail time after a judge Tuesday reduced his manslaughter conviction to criminally negligent homicide.
Peter Liang was 28 years old and 18 months out of the police academy when he was patrolling a public housing project in Brooklyn, New York, in November 2014. He fired once and the bullet ricocheted, killing Akai Gurley, who was also in the stairwell.
A jury convicted Liang of second-degree manslaughter in February for Gurley’s death. The police department fired Liang shortly after the verdict.
While Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson had suggested a sentencing of 6 months of house arrest, probation and 500 hours of community service, Judge Danny Chun said Tuesday Liang will face 5 years of probation and 800 hours of community service, but no house arrest.
Upon hearing the decision, the overflow room broke out in gasps. One woman left screaming and crying while another said she was having a panic attack.
Liang has already tried once to get his conviction thrown out, which was denied. His attorney Paul Shechtman told ABC News he would try again on appeal.
Thompson also plans to appeal now, but for a different reason.
Thompson said in a statement Tuesday his office “vigorously prosecuted” Liang for manslaughter “because the evidence established that his conduct was criminal and the rule of law demanded that he be held accountable for his actions in taking Akai Gurley’s life.”
“The jury, the voice of the Brooklyn community, agreed and returned the verdict of guilty against Mr. Liang, who is now a convicted felon, forfeited his career as a police officer and must now always live with the fact that he recklessly caused Mr. Gurley’s death,” Thompson said. “While our sentencing recommendation was fair under the unique circumstances of this case, we respectfully disagree with the judge’s decision to reduce the jury’s verdict and will fight to reverse it on appeal.”
Liang could have been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison for the manslaughter conviction, but Thompson, who has said the officer should not have had his finger on the gun unless he was ready to shoot, told the judge last month that “a prison sentence is not warranted.”
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