Former New York City cop Peter Liang is a free man; a judge has ruled that he will serve no jail time in the shooting death of an unarmed man in 2014. The ex-NYPD cop shot and killed the unarmed Akai Gurley at a New York housing project when he was still a police officer. Peter Liang was found guilty of manslaughter and official misconduct in February for the shooting death of the unarmed Gurley, and the ex-cop was facing up to 15 years in prison at his sentencing.
As CNN reports, Peter Liang got no jail time for the shooting death of the unarmed citizen in part due to the leniency of the judge hearing his case. Judge Danny Chun reduced Peter Liang’s manslaughter conviction to a conviction for criminally negligent homicide on April 19 in the shooting death of 28-year-old Gurley, thus allowing the judge to sentence the convicted felon to only 800 hours of community service plus five years of probation for killing his victim in the stairwell of a Brooklyn project.
While the decision of the judge has been received as somewhat controversial, he said that in order for the manslaughter conviction against Peter Liang to stand, the prosecution in the case would have had to prove that Liang “created a substantial and unjustifiable risk that a death would occur” and that the cop was “aware of and consciously disregarded that risk.”
When defending his decision to reduce the conviction and sentence Peter Liang to no jail time, Judge Chun said that there was no evidence “direct or circumstantial” that Liang was aware of the presence of the unarmed victim and then disregarded that risk “by firing the weapon.”
“The evidence showed that it was a quick reaction to perhaps a sound, which in my opinion only amounts to failing to perceive a unjustifiable risk.”
The prosecution in the case against Peter Liang has said that it will appeal the judge’s decision to both reduce the charges against the former cop and to sentence the convicted killer to no jail time.
Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has been most vocal about his opposition to reduce the charges against Peter Liang and to sentence the duly convicted killer to no jail time for shooting and taking the life of an unarmed citizen.
“The jury, the voice of the Brooklyn community, agreed and returned the verdict of guilty against Mr. Liang, who is now a convicted felon, forfeited his career as a police officer and must now always live with the fact that he recklessly caused Mr. Gurley’s death.”
Liang was employed by the NYPD up until his conviction. He was fired after a jury of his peers found him guilty of manslaughter, the charge reduced today by the judge in the case. Liang apologized to the family of his victim as well as spoke to the court after he received no jail time for his crime at sentencing.
“Growing up my parents thought it was a foolish dream that I wanted to become a police officer. When I graduated from the academy it was a dream come true. Judge, my life is forever changed. I hope I have a chance to improve.”
Despite the apology, Akai Gurley’s domestic partner spoke to the court in her deceased loved one’s name, on behalf of herself and her child who now lives without her father. According to Kim Ballinger, her slain domestic partner was a “lovely father.” She said in court that their small child often asks her why a police officer shot and killed her dad.
“An innocent man was shot and killed due to the reckless actions of a police officer and then, after the shooting, a police officer did nothing to help him as Akai lay bleeding to death on a cold stairway.”
Prior to the judge’s decision to sentence Liang to no jail time in the death of the unarmed Gurley, the DA had written and submitted a sentencing recommendation to the judge. Ken Thompson had asked Judge Chun to sentence the ex-cop to five years of probation for his manslaughter conviction, along with six months of being confined to his home via electronic monitoring and 500 hours of community service.
Despite appealing the sentence and reduction of conviction that Liang received from the judge, DA Thompson acknowledged that Peter Liang had no criminal history and posed no additional public safety threat.
“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.”
In the incident leading up to his conviction, rookie NYPD cop Liang (who had only 18 months working as a cop under his belt) was patrolling a dark stairwell in a New York housing project. He fired his gun upon hearing a noise, and that bullet ultimately ricocheted and struck and killed the victim.
Prosecutors called the shooting death of the unarmed Gurley at the hands of the then-NYPD cop “a tragedy, not a crime.”
Gurley’s domestic partner disagrees, and has refused to accept Peter Liang’s apology over the shooting death of her child’s father, despite the fact that he will face no jail time for his crime.
[Image Courtesy Of Spence Platt/Getty Images]