In April 2015 an unarmed Black man named Walter Scott was shot five times in the back by former North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager. Scott was stopped for a minor traffic violation but fearing arrest, he ran from Slager. In his initial report, Slager alleged he killed Scott over a struggle with his Taser, but that was later determined to be a false statement. A witness to the shooting was able to capture the encounter showing that Slager lied.
Slager was tried for murder and the jury of 11 Whites and one Black announced to the judge that one male juror had caused a deadlock after intense deliberation. A mistrial was declared and Slager walked out of a court a free man on the state charges. However, the U.S. Justice Department charged Slager with violating Scott’s civil rights, obstructing justice, and unlawfully using a weapon during the commission of a crime.
On Tuesday, May 2 a plea deal was reached on the federal charges and Slager pleaded guilty to violating Walter Scott’s civil rights. By taking this deal, state prosecutors agreed to drop a pending murder charge against him and the two other federal charges against him were also dropped.
Scarlett Wilson, the 9th circuit solicitor, said in a statement which reads in part: “Today, in working with the Department, we found justice in a resolution that vindicates the State’s interests by holding former police officer Michael Slager accountable for shooting Mr. Scott (in the back) when Slager knew it was wrong and illegal; as well as justice in a resolution that recognizes the egregious violation of Mr. Scott’s civil rights. Now that Slager has pleaded guilty to a willful violation, admitted the facts we set out to prove and waived the right to appeal his conviction, a successive prosecution by the State is not necessary. Soon, a federal judge will decide what name and label to give the killing of Walter Scott. The same judge will determine what punishment former Officer Slager should receive. The maximum sentence is life in prison.”
A sentencing date has not yet been determined by the court for Slager at this time.