Illinois attorney general challenges ex-officer’s murder sentence


CHICAGO (Reuters) – Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and a prosecutor on Monday challenged the sentence of former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for the murder of a black teenager, questioning whether the judge who imposed it followed the law.

FILE PHOTO: Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke watches the prosecution’s closing statements during his trial for the shooting death of Laquan McDonald at the Leighton Criminal Court Building in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., October 4, 2018. Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Van Dyke, 40, who is white, was sentenced last month to nearly seven years in prison for second-degree murder in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald in 2014 in a landmark case that highlighted racial tensions in America’s third-largest city.

Activists and prosecutors had wanted a longer sentence. Van Dyke could have received up to 20 years in prison for second-degree murder and up to 30 years for each of 16 counts of aggravated battery – one count for each shot he fired at the 17-year-old McDonald, who was carrying a knife.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Vincent Gaughan did not sentence Van Dyke for the aggravated battery conviction, explaining that second-degree murder was the more serious crime.

Raoul and Kane County State’s Attorney Joseph McMahon, the special prosecutor in the case, told a news conference that they had a filed a petition to the Illinois Supreme Court to review the sentence imposed by Gaughan. Van Dyke could appeal the petition, they said.

“This is a question of the law. And it is in the interest of justice that the law be followed no matter who the defendant and no matter who the victim is in a particular case,” Raoul said.

The guilty verdict issued by a jury in October marked the first time an on-duty Chicago police officer was convicted for the killing of a black person.

A spokeswoman for Van Dyke’s lawyer said there would be a news conference on Monday afternoon to address the challenge.

At the sentencing hearing, prosecutors argued Van Dyke should be sentenced for the aggravated battery with a firearm convictions, McMahon said in a statement emailed on Monday.

“The ability for the prosecution to challenge a sentence is very narrow, but this might be one of those situations,” McMahon said.

Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales and Karen Pierog in Chicago; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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