Judge mulls severity of charges in McDonald case


In what's likely to only fuel tension between law enforcement and the black community, three officers have been acquitted in connection to the death of Laquan McDonald, who back in 2014 was shot 16 times by police in the south side of Chicago.

Dashcam video of the incident showed McDonald, who was high on the PCP drug at the time, refusing the officer's command to drop a knife as he walked down the street. Jason Van Dyke was convicted in October of second-degree murder and aggravated battery.

However, last fall a jury decided the shooting was not justified and convicted Van Dyke of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery.

But Stephenson said the footage did not show the perspectives of all the officers on the scene, so it could not be definitively said that the comments they made in their reports were not consistent with what they saw, even if it differed from the video.

Upon hearing the ruling, McDonald's family expressed outrage and grief, with the slain teenager's great-uncle, Rev. Marvin Hunter, condemning the criminal justice system as "corrupt". He later added that police officers can apparently "lie, cheat, and steal" without consequences, before concluding that this was a "sad day for America". After almost three years of pretrial hearings, lawyers spent about three weeks presenting their cases last fall.

The graphic images of McDonald crumpling to the street while bullets kept striking him stirred expectations that the officer might pay a heavy price in prison time.

During the trial, prosecutors argued that the reports written by the three about the October 2014 shooting included some of the same lies they say were created to protect Officer Jason Van Dyke.

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Members of the jury later told reporters that Van Dyke's testimony was not credible and seemed rehearsed.

FILE - In this October 30, 2018 file photo, from left, former Detective David March, Chicago Police Officer Thomas Gaffney and former officer Joseph Walsh appear at a pre-trial hearing in Chicago. His defense team had asked that he be released on probation.

His lawyers said Van Dyke "truly felt great" after the sentencing. "This is a case about law and order (and) about Laquan McDonald not following any laws that night". They are charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and official misconduct. Testifying about a 2007 traffic stop, he said the officer cursed and slammed him on the car's hood, grabbed him by the arms and pulled him to the squad auto.

"The state wants you to criminalize police reports", McKay bellowed at one point. City Hall only released the video to the public in November 2015 - 13 months after the shooting - because a judge ordered it to do so.

The ensuing firestorm over the case prompted the dismissal of the city's police superintendent and calls for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign.

On Monday, prosecutors filed a document that laid out the case for a wide range of punishments.

The video of the shooting triggered a federal investigation of the police department that found Chicago officers routinely used excessive force and violated people's rights, particularly minorities. In a statement he read before the sentence, Van Dyke, said he was scared of McDonald and called the shooting "the worst day of my life". In handing down her ruling, she attacked the prosecution's reliance on both the police reports and the infamous dashcam recording that captured the shooting and sparked massive protests and political fallout.