No Prison Time For Itchy Triggered NY Hero

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The Brooklyn District Attorney is recommending that Peter Liang receive no jail time when he is sentenced in April for the shooting death of Akai Gurley.

In a statement received by NBC News Wednesday afternoon, Ken Thompson said he will ask Justice Danny Chun to sentence Liang, 28, to five years probation and require that he serve six months of home confinement with electronic monitoring. Thompson is also asking that Liang perform 500 hours of community service.

Image: New York City Police officer (NYPD) Peter Liang is lead from the court room at the Brooklyn Supreme court in the Brooklyn borough of New York
New York City Police officer (NYPD) Peter Liang reacts as the verdict is read during his trial in court room at the Brooklyn Supreme court in the Brooklyn borough of New York February 11, 2016. Mary Altaffer/Pool / Reuters

He added that there was no evidence Liang intended to kill or injure Gurley, 28, while conducting a vertical patrol of an unlit stairwell with his gun drawn in a Brooklyn housing project on Nov. 20, 2014.

“Mr. Liang has no prior criminal history and poses no future threat to public safety,” Thompson said. “Because his incarceration is not necessary to protect the public, and due to the unique circumstances of this case, a prison sentence is not warranted.”

RELATED: Former NYPD Cop Peter Liang’s Guilty Verdict Leaves a Community Divided

Thompson’s recommendation, which is not binding, comes a little more than a week after Liang’s new appeals attorneys filed a written motion to set aside his Feb. 11 conviction on second-degree manslaughter and official misconduct.

The 21-page memorandum of law, submitted by Paul Shechtman and Gabriel J. Chin, argues that Liang did not recklessly cause Gurley’s death and that police procedures did not require Liang to administer CPR to Gurley, a procedure in which Liang’s attorneys say the rookie officer was “grossly inadequately” trained.

“Although we disagree with Mr. Thompson on the fundamental issue of Peter’s culpability, he deserves praise for his dispassionate and courageous decision that incarceration is not called for in this case,” Shechtman and Chin said in a statement to NBC News.

Image: New York City Police officer (NYPD) Peter Liang is led from the court room at the Brooklyn Supreme court in the Brooklyn borough of New York
New York City Police officer (NYPD) Peter Liang is led from the court room at the Brooklyn Supreme court in the Brooklyn borough of New York February 11, 2016. Liang was convicted of manslaughter and official misconduct on Thursday for fatally shooting an unarmed black man in a darkened public housing stairwell in 2014, according to media reports. BRENDAN MCDERMID / Reuters

Cathy Dang, executive director of CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities, told NBC News that she participated in a meeting attended by 14 people at the Brooklyn DA’s office Wednesday afternoon about Liang’s sentence recommendation, but said no one from Gurley’s family was present. Officials, however, said Gurley’s family had known about Thompson’s recommendation before it was announced Wednesday.

In a statement Wednesday evening, the Gurley family said it was outraged by Thompson’s sentencing recommendation and said Liang should serve time in prison.

“This sentencing recommendation sends the message that police officers who kill people should not face serious consequences,” the statement reads. “It is this on-going pattern of a severe lack of accountability for officers that unjustly kill and brutalize New Yorkers that allows the violence to continue.”

Dang, whose organization has supported the Gurley family since the shooting, expressed disappointment over the recommendation of no jail time.

“Today, [Thompson] just reinforced that we can continue to lose faith in our justice system that does wrong by all families who lose their family members to police violence,” Dang said.

Liang testified at trial that the shooting was an accident. The bullet, fired from the eighth floor, ricocheted off a cement wall, striking Gurley who had entered with his friend Melissa Butler from the floor below. Butler tried resuscitating the 28 year old, who collapsed on the fifth-floor landing, based on instructions relayed to her through a neighbor who spoke by phone with an emergency medical dispatcher.

“The initial reaction is, of course, it’s a relief for Peter and his family that probably, with the DA’s recommendation, he will not have any jail time,” Phil Gim, who helped organize a Feb. 20 Brooklyn rally in support of Liang that attracted thousands of demonstrators told NBC News.

RELATED: Thousands Rally After Conviction of Ex-Cop Peter Liang in Death of Akai Gurley

“As I have said before, there are no winners here,” Thompson said. “But the sentence that I have requested is just and fair under the circumstances of this case.”

“Criminalizing a mistake, even a tragic accidental discharge like this, serves no good purpose,” Patrick J. Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said in a statement Wednesday. “The reasons cited by the DA for justifying no jail time in this tragedy are the very same reasons that the officer should not have been indicted in the first place.”

Liang faces up to 15 years in prison when sentenced April 14.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Remember the original article here right after the shooting? Some cop on the scene was talking about Liang crying and carrying on, “He was a mess.”

    Shit. He wasn’t half the mess he would have been if the victim’s family had been able to lay hands on his ass. He’d have been a mess sho’nuff then.

    • Hi Ed,

      The striking thing – the common thread – is the blind spot/double standard. If I “accidentally” shoot someone and they die, I am going to go to prison for a long time. Why is the standard more lenient for a cop? Aren’t these Heroes possessed of steely nerves and judgment? Aren’t they supposed to be uber trained to safely and responsibly handle firearms?

      Yet, as a Mundane, I am expected to be more responsible than they for my actions.

  2. While I can sympathize with Peter Liang’s situation, officers’ should be held to a higher standard than the public they are supposed to be serving. Their job should not mean they can avoid the consequences of their actions. Officers should be a good example for others.

    “Mr. Liang has no prior criminal history and poses no future threat to public safety,” Thompson said. “Because his incarceration is not necessary to protect the public, and due to the unique circumstances of this case, a prison sentence is not warranted.”

    According to Thompson’s logic, people currently serving time (several that he probably help put in jail) that should not be serving time if they killed under similar circumstances.

    If a non officer committed the same act under the same circumstances as then officer Peter Liang, I doubt he would receive a recommendation for probation. He probably would be facing manslaughter charges and other serious court issues.

    • Hi Mith,

      Exactly.

      When I qualified for my concealed-carry permit, I (and the others attending the class) were advised that the law set a very high bar for the mere display of a firearm by us. That if we unholstered our weapon and pointed it at someone, we’d damn well better be able to provide a mountain of evidence that we were facing a potential (and immediate) mortal threat. That if we fired our weapon and someone died as a result, it had better be an unimpeachable case of self-defense against an immediate mortal threat.

      If I “accidentally” fire a gun and shoot someone, my goose is cooked.

      As it ought to be.

      Why not the same for Heroes?

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