NORTH CHARLESTON, SC -- Former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager was sentenced today to 20 years in prison for the deadly shooting of unarmed black man Walter Scott.
U.S. District Judge David Norton made the ruling after saying he would follow sentencing guidelines to send Slager to prison for 19 to 24 years. The former officer could have faced life in prison. Norton ruled that Slager committed second-degree murder and obstruction of justice.
Both sides wept in court today when Scott's mother looked the former officer in the eye and told him she forgave him.
Slager’s wife cried uncontrollably.
The judge's decision comes after Slager, who is white, pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights offense.
Slager shot and killed Scott on April 4, 2015, while Slager was an officer with the North Charleston Police Department. Witness video that surfaced shortly after the encounter appeared to show the moment Slager fatally shot Scott as he ran away. He was fired from the force after the shooting.
Slager was charged in South Carolina with murder and pleaded not guilty. During the murder trial, Slager's attorney said his client shot Scott because he was in fear for his life. In 2016, the case ended in a mistrial. The state retrial and federal trial were expected to take place this year, but instead, in May Slager pleaded guilty to violating Scott's civil rights in federal court, ending the federal case against him and also resolving the state charges that were pending after the mistrial.
The judge's ruling today followed several days of testimony, including from Feiden Santana, the witness who filmed the shooting.
Walter Scott's brother, Rodney Scott, today in court called the death of his brother the worst day of his life. Rodney Scott said he wants Slager to pay for his actions.