Upd. March 23, 2016 | 5:06pm
By Emily Saul
|Gregory P. Mango (2)|
|Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson (left) and Peter Liang.|
A former NYPD officer facing up to 15 years in prison for the accidental shooting death of an unarmed man should get home confinement and probation instead of jail time, the Brooklyn district attorney said Wednesday.
District Attorney Ken Thompson said he is recommending five years of probation for former cop Peter Liang — who was convicted of manslaughter in February in the death of Akai Gurley — as well as six months of home confinement with electric monitoring and 500 hours of community service.
“Peter Liang was indicted, prosecuted and subsequently convicted by a jury because his reckless actions caused an innocent man to lose his life,” Thompson said in a statement.
“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 he provided the sentencing recommendation letter to Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun, who oversaw the three-week long trial and will sentence Liang next month for the Nov. 20, 2014 incident.
The letter briefly called Gurley a “completely innocent man who lost his life for no reason.”
|Akai Gurley (Facebook)|
But Thompson reasoned that, “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.
“As I have said before, there are no winners here,” Thompson said. “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.”
The turnabout from Thompson, who took a hard-line stance in bringing the case against the rookie cop, came as a surprise both to supporters of Liang and of Gurley.
“As our post-verdict motion makes clear, we steadfastly believe in Peter Liang’s innocence,” defense attorney Paul Shechtman said in a statement. “Although we disagree with Mr. Thompson on the fundamental issue of Peter’s culpability, he deserves praise for his dispassionate and courageous decision that incarceration was not called for in this case.”
“This is a promising recommendation from the District Attorney, we’ll just have to wait and see what the judge says,” Liang’s trial attorney and former police officer Robert E. Brown told The Post.
The decision did not sit well, however, with Gurley’s family.
“We are outraged at District Attorney Thompson’s inadequate sentencing recommendation,” said Gurley’s aunt, Hertencia Petersen, mother, Sylvia Palmer and stepfather, Kenneth Palmer in a statement.
“[The DA]was elected on the promise that he would not allow officers to act as if they are above the law and that he would help restore confidence in the justice system. His sentencing recommendation is a betrayal of that promise.”
Executive director of Chinese Action Network Karlin Chan attributed the decision to “political pressure.”
“I’m glad he saw that Peter wasn’t a menace to society,” said Chan, a friend of Liang who has been organizing a campaign to oust Thompson since the verdict came down.
Chan declined to saw whether he’ll be suspending that campaign, which had yet to select a candidate.
“We’ll see how he does,” he responded vaguely, referencing Thompson. “At least while peter appeals the conviction,he can be at home, and not in danger in jail.”
Additional reporting by Priscilla DeGregory