NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office on Wednesday recommended that former NYPD Officer Peter Liang serve no jail time in the fatal shooting of a man in a Brooklyn building.
Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson advised that Liang should serve five years’ probation and six months of home confinement with electronic monitoring, and should perform 500 hours of community service.
Liang was found guilty of manslaughter and official misconduct in the fatal shooting of Akai Gurley’s death in the Pink Houses in East New York, Brooklyn in 2014, and was terminated from the police force.
Thompson said in a statement that he has proposed the sentence for Liang to the judge in the case.
In a statement, Thompson said the facts of a crime and the characteristics of the person convicted must be considered. He said Liang did not have a criminal record, was trying to keep the public safe as a police officer at the time, and was not trying to kill Gurley.
“Peter Liang was indicted, prosecuted and subsequently convicted by a jury because his reckless actions caused an innocent man to lose his life. There is no evidence, however, that he intended to kill or injure Akai Gurley,” Thompson said in the statement. “When Mr. Liang went into that building that night, he did so as part of his job and to keep the people of Brooklyn and our city safe.
In sentencing a defendant, the facts of the crime and the particular characteristics of that person must be considered. Mr. Liang has no prior criminal history and poses no future threat to public safety. 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.
Justice will be best served if Mr. Liang is sentenced to five years of probation, with the condition that he serves six months of home confinement with electric monitoring and performs 500 hours of community service. I have provided this sentencing recommendation to Justice Chun.
As I have said before, there are no winners here. But the sentence that I have requested is just and fair under the circumstances of this case. From the beginning, this tragic case has always been about justice and not about revenge.”
As CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported, Liang and his partner were performing a vertical patrol on the stairs in a Pink Houses building on Nov. 20, 2014. Liang’s gun went off in an unlit stairwell, and a bullet struck a wall, ricocheted, and hit Gurley in the chest, killing him.
Liang had faced a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
Thompson also emphasized that “there are no winners” in the case, which attracted widespread attention and aroused strong emotions in several New York City communities.
“But the sentence that I have requested is just and fair under the circumstances of this case. From the beginning, this tragic case has always been about justice and not about revenge,” Thompson said in the statement.
The DA’s office said Gurley’s family has been consulted and is aware of the sentencing recommendations. Gurley’s family released a statement expression fury.
“We are outraged at District Attorney Thompson’s inadequate sentencing recommendation. Officer Liang was convicted of manslaughter and should serve time in prison for his crime. This sentencing recommendation sends the message that police officers who kill people should not face serious consequences,” the family said in the statement. “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.”
Gurley’s aunt, Hertencia Petersen, said Thompson had promised to restore confidence in the justice system when he was elected.
“Thompson’s sentencing recommendation is a betrayal of that promise, and sends a message that officers can continue to kill black New Yorkers without consequences,” she said.
Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-45th) called Thompson’s recommendation “deeply concerning.” He said in a statement that he agreed that Liang did not intend to kill Gurley, but added, I also believe on many levels that the NYPD has questions to answer.
“Still none of that negates the fact that an unarmed young man was killed and Officer Liang’s actions – and inaction – were reckless and he must be held accountable,” Williams said in the statement. “This was confirmed by a jury and he should receive an appropriate sentence.
He wrote that the sentencing recommendation could have a “chilling effect on accountability.”
“It can provide the basis that any officer, even if convicted of manslaughter, should not serve prison time as long as they did not ‘intend’ to kill an unarmed human being,” Williams wrote. “Black life must be shown to have more value. “
But Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch argued that Liang should never have faced criminal prosecution in the first place.
“Police officers are human being and as such can make mistakes while risking their lives to protect the community. Criminalizing a mistake, even a tragic accidental discharge like this, serves no good purpose,” Lynch said in a statement. “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.”