Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson recommended Wednesday that former NYPD officer Peter Liang receive five years probation after being found guilty of fatally shooting an unarmed black man in a Brooklyn stairwell.
“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. 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,” Thompson said in statement sent out Wednesday.
“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.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Supreme Court Justice Danny Chu is not obligated to follow the suggestion, but “prosecutors’ recommendations typically play a strong role in sentencing decisions.”
Last month, a jury found Liang guilty of manslaughter for firing into an unlit stairwell, killing an unarmed man.
Liang, now 28, was charged with accidentally shooting Gurley on Nov. 20, 2014 during a routine patrol in East New York's Pink Houses. He was also accused of not helping the injured man as he bled to death after he was hit by a ricocheting bullet fired by Liang.
A day after the verdict, his partner from that night, Shaun Landau, was also fired by the NYPD.
The maximum sentence for manslaughter is up to 15 years in prison.
“Although we disagree with Mr. Thompson on the fundamental issue of Mr. Liang’s culpability, he deserves praise for his dispassionate and courageous decision that incarceration is not called for in this case,” Liang’s appellate lawyer said in a statement Paul Shechtman, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Liang’s lawyers, according to the publication, have filed a motion to have the verdict overturned, based on insufficient evidence.
Gurley’s stepfather, Kenneth Palmer, expressed Wednesday in a quote in the Wall Street Journal his disagreement with the sentencing recommendation. “What is justice? That’s my question right now.” he said.
“If it was your son, what would you think?”