By Shirley N Lew
AsAmNews New York Correspondent
Judge Danny Chun sentenced ex-NYPD officer Peter Liang today to a reduced charge of criminally negligent homicide from second degree manslaughter.
With the reduced charge, Chun’s sentenced Liang to five years probation and 800 hours of community service. The judge removed the recommended six months of house arrest, but increased the community hours from 500 as originally recommended by the Brooklyn DA, Ken Thompson.
Liang was facing up to 15 years of manslaughter for an accidental shooting of Akai Gurley in the Pink Houses during a vertical patrol in 2014.
Chun felt Liang would be more productive if he was not just sitting at home under house arrest and also acknowledged the over 40,000 form letters he received in support of Liang.
“I am compelled to modify and reduce the sentence to criminal negligent homicide. The people needed to prove that substantial and unreasonable risk would occur. There is no evidence that the defendant was aware of Gurley’s presence. Shooting that gun and killing somebody was the last thing on his mind,” the judge said.
Sobs were heard from Gurley’s family and supporters in the courtroom as the judge read off Liang’s sentence.
“It’s still a conviction even-though it’s a criminal negligent homicide,” said community activist and Director of Free Masons, Karlin Chan. “It’s a relief to get rid of the manslaughter charge. Like I’ve said, I’ve sat in on so many trials and the verdict reached by jury was unsupported by testimony and evidence presented at the trial, and that it was more an emotional verdict to hold police accountable. The judge looked at the evidence, he did the right thing. He stood by the letter of the law and he made the right decision. “
Assemblyman William Colton’s also reacted to Liang’s reduced charge and sentence.
Supporters of Gurley believed that Liang never called for help. Complicating the matter the night of the incident is that Liang and his partner Shaun Landau did not know immediately that a man was shot. When they did, they both were not able to perform CPR, they said because of inadequate training.
Landau testified in the trial and was then fired from the NYPD. He was never charged.
When asked if the Liang’s legal team will still appeal, Chan replied, “We will discuss that even though it is now a Class E felony. We still try to clear his name totally.”
Just before the judge read Liang’s sentence, Liang read his statement, ”I always treated people fairly and with respect.”
Outside the courthouse, demonstrator Marquis Jenkins said, “For decade and centuries, the criminal justice system has been holding people of color hostage. We are yet again disappointed, but not surprised by today’s verdict. We will continue to advocate, immobilize and organize for justice. We can not allow another person of color to fall, to die in the hand of the system that was designed to protect us.”
Before the 2:30pm sentencing, about a hundred Liang supporters already formed across the street. They held signs in English and Chinese that read “Stand up to justice,” and “Tragic accident does not equal manslaughter.”
For over a year and a half, this case has captured the attention of many. As some have said, there are
no clear winners here. One can only hope that with time, everyone will heal. There is a dead man and a fired police officer with an uncertain future. The case even created division among many Chinese Americans over Liang’s conviction. This case is surely to be re-examined in law schools and there will plenty of discussions to take place in homes.
One thing is for sure, the supporters on both sides wanted justice.
The probation department will determine when the sentencing will begin and the type of service Liang will be performing in the community.
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