Prosecutor Recommends No Jail Time In N.Y. Police Shooting

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 3/24/2016, 7:18 a.m.
A New York prosecutor has recommended six months of house arrest but no jail time for a former police officer ...
Former NYPD Officer Peter Liang when the verdict was read at his trial. Liang, 28, was found guilty of manslaughter and official misconduct in February in the shooting death of Akai Gurley, 28.

A New York prosecutor has recommended six months of house arrest but no jail time for a former police officer convicted of fatally shooting an unarmed man in a housing project.

Peter Liang, 28, was found guilty of manslaughter and official misconduct in February in the shooting death of Akai Gurley, 28.

Liang was immediately fired after the highly unusual conviction of a cop for the shooting death of a civilian. He faces a prison term of up to 15 years at sentencing next month.

But Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson has recommended a sentence of five years of probation, including six months of home confinement with electronic monitoring and 500 hours of community service.

"Mr. Liang has no prior criminal history and poses no future threat to public safety," Thompson said in a statement Wednesday. "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."

Liang, with 18 months on the job, was on patrol in the dark stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project in November 2014 when he fired his gun. The bullet ricocheted off a wall and struck Gurley in the chest. The victim died at a hospital.

Defense lawyers called the shooting a tragedy, not a crime. Prosecutors argued that Liang was reckless and was more concerned about his story than helping Gurley.

"There is no evidence ... that he intended to kill or injure Akai Gurley," Thompson said in the statement. "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."

Thousands rallied in cities across the nation last month in support of Liang, calling the shooting a tragic accident.

A group calling itself the Coalition of Justice for Liang staged rallies from Boston to Los Angeles, with supporters claiming the officer was subjected to "selective prosecution."

Liang's trial garnered attention beyond New York because of the controversy over allegations that police are too quick to use lethal force, sometimes against unarmed people. Outrage over police shootings or excessive force has spurred protest movements in major cities such as Chicago, Baltimore and New York.

In the most well-known cases -- the fatal shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Walter Scott in North Charleston, South Carolina, and the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody in Baltimore -- the victims were unarmed black men.

Gurley's death occurred a few months after Eric Garner died as police tried to arrest him on Staten Island. The chokehold death of Garner, an unarmed 43-year-old man, sparked street protests, a review of police procedures and calls for a federal civil rights investigation. A grand jury declined to prosecute the officer.

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