Thursday, December 7, 2017

Former North Charleston officer Michael Slager sentenced to 20 years in Walter Scott shooting death

Initial criminal trial ended in hung jury

Posted by Sam Spence on Thu, Dec 7, 2017 at 12:20 PM

Video showed officer Michael Slager opening fire on Walter Scott - FILE
  • File
  • Video showed officer Michael Slager opening fire on Walter Scott
Former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager will spend 20 years in jail, a federal judge in Charleston ruled today.

Slager pled guilty to violating Walter Scott's civil rights in 2015 when he shot and killed the 50-year old Coast Guard veteran as he attempted to run following a traffic stop off Remount Road in North Charleston. Scott, who was unarmed, was likely worried about unpaid child support when he decided to flee, his family has said.

A year ago, Slager's initial criminal jury trial ended in a mistrial. Over the summer Slager agreed to plead guilty to federal civil rights violations in the shooting death, avoiding a local retrial.

This week's proceedings have centered on prosecutors and defense attorneys' interpretations of the severity of Slager's actions, with the feds standing by their position that his actions constituted second-degree murder. Slager's attorneys challenged the timeline of events leading up to the shooting, casting doubt on the assertion that Slager acted unnecessarily.

In impact statements given before the court today, members of Walter Scott's mother forgave Slager for his role in her son's death. Denise Scott recounted fond memories of her late brother-in-law, particularly his dancing and his looks.

This story is developing, check back soon.

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Rep. Jeff Duncan quiet on Roy Moore endorsement despite calling for Conyers' resignation

Duncan praised Moore as "a man of high principle and steadfast character"

Posted by Sam Spence on Wed, Dec 6, 2017 at 4:57 PM

Rep. Jeff Duncan (SC-3) is the only public official from S.C. listed as a Roy Moore endorser - GAGE SKIDMORE
  • Gage Skidmore
  • Rep. Jeff Duncan (SC-3) is the only public official from S.C. listed as a Roy Moore endorser
Congressman Jeff Duncan endorsed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore on October 31, calling him "a man of high principle and steadfast character." Since then at least nine women have accused Moore of making unwanted physical advances on them when they were as young as 14 years old.

Republicans in South Carolina and across the country have withdrawn support for Moore since initial reports by the Washington Post, including four of the five incumbent senators listed in the press release noting the 3rd District congressman's endorsement. Moore is accused of initiating unwanted sexual contact including groping and forcibly kissing underage teen girls and young women.

U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott have both taken steps to distance themselves from Moore even though they never actually endorsed him. Duncan, however, is the state's only elected politician found as an official endorser on and has remained silent on his support since the allegations were reported nine days after he signed on with the Moore campaign.

But last week, the congressman did say that he thought his colleague, Democratic Rep. John Conyers should resign over allegations of sexual misconduct.

Political figures accused of sexual misconduct in recent weeks have not been met with the same swift and universal condemnation as men outside the halls of power.

President Donald Trump, himself accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, has renewed his support for Moore and has reportedly confided that he believes reports of what could amount to child sexual assault were fabricated. Trump previously assailed media figures like Matt Lauer on Twitter for their reported sexual advances.

Steve Bannon, the Bretibart executive credited with helping Trump ignore criticism after the Access Hollywood tape, is also standing by Moore despite nearly a dozen accusers. (Trump has reportedly also told people he thinks the Access Hollywood tape is fake.)

In Congress, Democratic and Republican leaders dragged their feet for days before taking a position on Moore, Conyers, and others. Today, a group of female Democrats in the Senate calling for Sen. Al Franken to step down will likely trigger his resignation tomorrow, weeks after allegations first surfaced. Duncan's rebuke of Conyers came around the same time Democratic leaders decided to take a stand.

Conyers resigned this week amid questions by Congressional Black Caucus colleagues as to why pressure centered on him and not other lawmakers in similar circumstances.

Multiple requests for comment on Duncan's endorsement have gone unanswered over the past week.

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Walter Scott's son reads impact statement at sentencing of police officer who killed his father

"He murdered my one and only father"

Posted by Adam Manno on Wed, Dec 6, 2017 at 2:42 PM

Lead defense attorney Andy Savage and former North Charleston officer Michael Slager in May 2017 - GRACE BEAHM/POST AND COURIER
  • Grace Beahm/Post and Courier
  • Lead defense attorney Andy Savage and former North Charleston officer Michael Slager in May 2017

Sentencing hearings for former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager reached an emotional peak Wednesday afternoon as Walter Scott's son listed the ways his life changed following his father's death in 2015.

"As life goes on, my father will never see me play high school football, graduate from high school, graduate from college," said Miles Scott as he held back tears. "I will no longer see my dad at cookouts, family reunions ... watching him sing, or seeing him in person. My heart is destroyed because the way my father went was rough, and you only get one father, not two."

Scott then urged Judge David Norton to give Slager the strongest possible sentence.

"I would like (for you) to sentence the defendant to the strongest sentence the law will allow because he murdered my one and only father," Scott said.

Michael Slager stopped Walter Scott for a broken brake light in April 2015. Scott fled the scene, afraid because he owed child support payments according to his family. He was shot in the back five times as he ran away. A bystander caught the shooting on video.

This week's sentencing hearings are a chance for Judge Norton to decide the basis for Slager's punishment: second-degree murder, as the federal prosecution is arguing, or manslaughter, as posited by the defense.

The day began with a cross-examination of defense witness and forensic psychiatrist Dr. Charles Morgan. Morgan said Tuesday that his analysis of Slager showed a non-impulsive person who was "high in what we call conscientiousness."

The defense is arguing that Scott grabbed Slager’s stun gun and had an altercation with him on the ground, which cannot be clearly seen in the bystander's video. On Tuesday, audio and video experts claimed that a ground struggle could be seen and heard with professional enhancements.

Dr. Morgan wrote in a report after meeting with Slager that the former officer did not remember Scott being on top of him. Morgan said that Slager told him his torn-up uniform led him to believe he had been "Tasered." Morgan also testified that Slager's varying accounts may be the result of being involved in a high-stress situation.

The defense said that North Charleston's homicide rates have gone up following the possible chilling effect of Slager's 2016 state murder charges. The Post & Courier reported in October that 2017 has been the deadliest year on record for the city.

Retired North Charleston officer Wade Humphries, a former indirect supervisor of Michael Slager, called Slager his "go-to" man in the department and said that Slager was following his training when shooting at the suspect "until the threat cease[d]."

When Judge Norton asked Humphries whether he believed Scott's killing constituted a "righteous shooting," Humphries simply replied, "No."

The prosecution rested its case Tuesday morning.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Slager defense invites audiovisual experts to question circumstances leading to shooting of Walter Scott

Seen and Heard

Posted by Adam Manno on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 2:26 PM

Lead defense attorney Andy Savage during Slager's initial trial, which resulted in a hung jury - GRACE BEAHM/POST AND COURIER
  • Grace Beahm/Post and Courier
  • Lead defense attorney Andy Savage during Slager's initial trial, which resulted in a hung jury
Defense attorneys for former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager invited video and audio analysts to the witness stand Tuesday morning.

Monday's sentencing hearing resurfaced questions about the location of Slager's stun gun seconds before he shot 50-year-old Walter Scott in the back five times in a case that has circulated as evidence of excessive use of force against minorities. This re-opened a back-and-forth about the nature of Scott and Slager's interactions.

Tuesday's session began at 10:37 a.m. in downtown Charleston. The federal prosecution rested its case before announcing their plans to invite Walter Scott's son, a high school student, to the stand Wednesday morning.

Among new revelations during this week's sentencing hearings is the defense witnesses' claims that Walter Scott said, "Fuck the police," while allegedly struggling on the ground with Slager, now 36.

Forensic video analyst Grant Fredericks took the stand first on behalf of the defense. He claims to have also heard Slager warn Scott, "Let go of my Taser or I'll shoot you."

“There’s clearly a physical altercation from the visual images, and that clearly goes along with the audio that indicates that there’s a fight occurring on the ground,”  Fredericks said.

Prosecutors have maintained no "altercation" occurred as they define it: punching, kicking, or assault.

When cross-examined by Department of Justice prosecutor Jared Fishman, Fredericks agreed that Scott was escaping the scene when he was shot to death.

“For each and every shot he (Walter Scott) was moving away from the defendant (Michael Slager),” Fredericks agreed. “The defendant walks over, drops the Taser on the ground somewhere near Mr. Scott, and picks it back up.”

David Hallimore, a forensic audio analyst from Houston, Texas, said he reviewed audio from Slager's in-car camera, his dispatch radio, and from eyewitness Feidin Santana's cell phone footage.

Hallimore said he used professional headphones and digital filtrations to make out the alleged "fuck the police" remark from Slager's body microphone. He agreed that this was his "interpretation" of the audio during cross-examination by Fishman.

Other witnesses presented by the defense include Eugenio Liscio, a Toronto-based 3D forensic analyst who proposed theories about what happened to Slager's stun gun using a 3D model. Also called to the stand was Dr. Charles Morgan, a forensic psychiatrist who studies how stress affects the brain.

“Errors are the rule (in recalling stressful events),” Dr. Morgan said. “About 80 percent of the people we evaluate exhibit errors in memory."

Prosecutors had tried to call into question Slager's varying versions of what precisely led to him shooting Scott.

Yesterday, a lieutenant with SLED confirmed that there may have been inaccuracies in an executive summary detailing a meeting the state agency had with Slager three days after the 2015 shooting. The meeting was not recorded in any way.

“We always videoed and followed a protocol,” Morgan said of his research. “I can’t speak for SLED, I don’t work with them.”

The experts are an attempt by the defense to shed doubt on the circumstances leading to the shooting in what the court called an "objectively unreasonable" use of deadly force in Slager's plea agreement.

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Sanford Dem challenger Joe Cunningham: "Guys, don't be creepy."

Cunningham's message comes as politicians grapple with allegations

Posted by Sam Spence on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 12:38 PM

Joe Cunningham, the Democratic challenger against Congressman Mark Sanford, posted a straightforward video today with a clear message as the spotlight grows on reported sexual misconduct by men in power.

Cunningham, straight to camera: "Guys, don't be creepy. Stop harassing women. Keep your hands to yourself, and keep your zipper up."

The 1st District candidate's 30-second video comes as longtime Democratic Rep. John Conyers announces his resignation from Congress amid sexual harassment allegations and the president and RNC renew support for U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, who multiple women say made sexual advances to them when they were underage.

Cunningham goes on to say: "To the politicians in both parties and to the men across America: Treat women with respect, call out those who don't, and teach your sons to do the same."

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