Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson today recommended that former Cop Peter Liang should not do any jail time following his manslaughter conviction for shooting Akai Gurley in a dark East New York stairwell in 2014.
Thompson’s recommendation was sent to Justice Danny Chun, the Brooklyn judge who will be handing Liang his sentence on April 14. He faces up to 15 years in prison on the manslaughter charges.
“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,” said Thompson in an emailed press statement
“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.
“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,” he added.
Liang, a rookie, was patrolling the darkened stairwell of NYCHA’s Pink Houses with his gun out, and after being startled, he fired one round which ricochet off a wall and hit Gurley, who was on another floor and out of view.
The November 2014 shooting incident and subsequent indictment followed the summer chokehold death of Eric Gardner while cops were trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes in Staten Island, sparking the Black Lives Matter movement. When former District Attorney (and current Congressman) Dan Donovan convened a Grand Jury on the Garner case and failed to get any indictments, the black community, white sympathizers and Mayor Bill de Blasio were outraged.
It was in this climate that Thompson promised a full investigation and returned a six-count indictment including one count of second-degree manslaughter, one count of criminally negligent homicide, one count of second-degree assault, one count of reckless endangerment and two counts of official misconduct.
The trial and ensuing guilty verdict was watched closely in Southern Brooklyn’s large Chinese-American community where Liang lived, and drew a protest rally upon his conviction of more than 10,000 people in Downtown Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza last month.
The verdict also galvanized this community, who reportedly have registered to vote en mass as there are no elected Asian-American legislators from the borough, despite their numbers. Among the reported officials in their sights to vote out of office was Thompson.
But a source in the DA’s office denied that Thompson’s new-found leniency towards Liang had anything to do with political expediency after he all but threw the book at him in a highly charged trial.
“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,” said Thompson.