Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office says it is reviewing the legality of the sentence handed down last week to former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke for the murder of Laquan McDonald.
“We are going to do a careful review of the record and the law and make a determination based on our review,” Maura Possley, a spokeswoman for the office, said Wednesday afternoon.
Raoul, sworn in as attorney general this month, would not say whether he believes Van Dyke’s punishment is fair.
Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan last Friday sentenced Van Dyke to 81 months in prison — less than half of what prosecutors had sought. Van Dyke could be released in three years.
Outside the courtroom, Special Prosecutor Joseph McMahon said he was “satisfied” with the sentence.
“We achieved our goal of justice and holding Jason Van Dyke accountable for his actions,” McMahon said.
But many police-accountability activists viewed the sentence as a setback.
A jury in October convicted Van Dyke of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, one for each shot into McDonald.
Some legal experts say the best way to challenge Van Dyke’s sentence would be to seek a “mandamus” order from the Illinois Supreme Court. That court could find Gaughan violated the law by basing the punishment on the second-degree murder count, a Class 1 felony, instead of the battery counts, which carry a more serious designation, Class X.
A spokesman for McMahon on Wednesday said the special prosecutor is “still reviewing” the sentence. The spokesman would not say whether McMahon asked McDonald’s mother, Tina Hunter, for her view on whether the sentence should be challenged.
McDonald’s great uncle Rev. Marvin Hunter, the family’s spokesman, said “justice was not served” and accused Gaughan of treating Van Dyke as if the crime were a “minor drug offense.”
A staffer in Gaughan’s chambers on Wednesday said the judge declined to comment on the sentencing.
Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx did not answer what she thinks of the sentence or whether she would play a role in challenging it. A consideration for Foxx is her predecessor Anita Alvarez’s recusal of the office from the case after civil-rights groups accused her of pro-police bias.
Locke Bowman, an attorney who led the push for a special prosecutor in the case, said the Supreme Court has authority to toss out Gaughan’s “illegal” ruling that second-degree murder is the greater offense.
“If you turned the tables and if a young African-American man had regrettably fired 16 shots at a Chicago police officer and killed him,” Bowman said, “the judicial system would impose a massively punitive sentence.”
On Thursday, Van Dyke’s attorney slammed Raoul for reviewing the sentence.
“Another politician has chosen to exploit the tragic death of Laquan McDonald for his own political gain,” the attorney, Dan Herbert, said in a statement. “The judge in this case carefully considered the arguments made and issued the correct ruling under the law.”Van Dyke’s defense team says it is exploring its own options for challenging the sentence as well as the conviction.
Van Dyke began shooting McDonald, 17, as the teen carried a knife and walked away from officers on a South Side road in 2014. Many of the 16 shots hit the teen after he had collapsed to the pavement.
A police dashcam video contradicted reports by officers that McDonald was attacking Van Dyke.
Cook County Judge Domenica Stephenson last week acquitted three officers of charges they covered up for Van Dyke
CHICAGO — Chicago building inspectors have found code violations at R. Kelly’s recording studio, including evidence the industrial space was used as a residence.
Building Department spokesman Gregg Cunningham says the agency will list the violations during a court hearing next week. He says the inspectors were looking at plumbing, electrical systems and carpentry.
Kelly’s attorney, Steve Greenburg, says no one was living at the studio and it should not be surprising that it included places for sleeping or taking breaks.
Kelly has been hit in recent weeks with sexual misconduct allegations. The Lifetime documentary series “Surviving R. Kelly” recently drew fresh attention to the allegations and the #MeToo and #MuteRKelly movements have held protests outside the studio demanding promoters stop booking his concerts.
Greenburg says the inspectors didn’t find anything supporting misconduct by Kelly.
The former Chicago police officer convicted in the murder of a black teenager who was shot 16 times as he walked away was sentenced Friday to 6 years, 9 months.
Jason Van Dyke’s punishment was far less than the minimum of 18 years that prosecutors were seeking, although state sentencing guidelines allowed for as many as 96 years or more — the equivalent of six years served consecutively for each shot.
A jury in October found Van Dyke, 40, guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery in the death of Laquan McDonald, 17.
On the night of the shooting in October 2014, Van Dyke and other officers were responding to reports that McDonald was carrying a knife and breaking into cars in the city’s Southwest Side. Van Dyke at his trial testified that he feared for his life when he encountered the teenager, who was holding a folded knife.
But dashcam footage showed that Van Dyke was moving closer toward McDonald, while the teenager was veering away from officers in the middle of the street.
McDonald’s death sparked racial tensions, a federal investigation and political upheaval in the city, and the video was released following intense public pressure and calls from activists for police accountability.
The last time a Chicago police officer was convicted of murder for an on-duty killing was more than 50 years ago.
Van Dyke’s defense team had requested probation for the 13-year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, and submitted more than 100 letters from family, friends and co-workers who noted he had no prior criminal record and deserved leniency.
At the sentencing hearing, the Rev. Martin Hunter, McDonald’s great uncle, spoke on behalf of the family and read a letter that was written as if McDonald had penned it.
“Please think about me and about my life when you sentence this person to prison,” Hunter read. “Why should this person be free, when I am dead forever?”
The prosecution also highlighted complaints against Van Dyke for allegedly using excessive force and featured testimony from minorities who claimed he abused their civil rights during arrests.
Edward Nance, who won a $350,000 civil judgment after his arrest by Van Dyke and his partner during a 2007 traffic stop, cried on the stand as he explained how he was manhandled and remains “in constant pain, every day” from the incident.
Despite about 20 complaints against him, Van Dyke was never disciplined during his career.
His sentencing came a day after three Chicago police officers were found not guilty of conspiring to protect him following the shooting — a case that drew attention to a “code of silence” that has long plagued the department.
It’s more to this “Surviving R. Kelly” documentary that aired on “Lifetime” but I feel it’s much more of a psychological issue that needs to be solved. Instead of pointing the finger…. Let’s HELP and fix the problem. More to come on #BHRELIVE
A teenage girl was reported missing Thursday from the McKinley Park neighborhood on the South Side.
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