Judge denies Michael Slager’s motion to overturn sentence

Charleston County News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Judge Richard M. Gergel on Monday denied a petition submitted by Michael Slager, a former North Charleston Police Department (NCPD) officer charged in the 2015 death of Walter Scott.

Slager shot Scott in the back five times as Scott tried to flee from a traffic stop.

Slager was sentenced after pleading guilty to violating Scott’s civil rights and is currently serving 20 years in federal prison.

Last week, Slager attempted to overturn his sentence, claiming ineffective counsel. He said that his attorney, Andy Savage, failed to inform him of a plea offer.

During the evidentiary hearing, both Slager and Savage testified.

Savage said that he “communicated each and every plea offer from the Government to [Slager].”

Ultimately, the Court found “Savage’s testimony on this matter credible and [Slager’s] testimony not credible.”

In fact, the claim was deemed “utterly incredible” by the Court, noting that “the record establishes that [Slager] was aware of the flurry of plea offers between his attorneys and the Government, as best evidenced by his signature on the letter of April 27, 2017 in which he certifies his knowledge of all plea offers.”

The Court went on to say that “the record demonstrates that defense counsel were zealous advocates committed to an ambitious strategy of establishing that [Slager’s] plainly criminal conduct constituted manslaughter and not second degree murder. Their efforts far exceeded a minimally acceptable standard of performance.”

The Court said that “attorneys are advocates, not magicians, and they could not make this damning evidence disappear.”

Also noted in the order is that Slager “made his difficult legal position even more precarious by his inconsistent and plainly false accounts in statements to law enforcement officers and in testimony under oath in both state and federal court.”

The judge summed up his conclusion with the following statement:

“What sealed [Slager’s] fate regarding malice was not the language of his plea agreement or the performance of his defense counsel, but his own willful act of shooting an unarmed man in the back five times as he ran for his life. Compounding these horrible facts was [Slager’s] inconsistent and obviously false statements about the circumstances of the incident, with which he destroyed his credibility. At sentencing, [Slager] attempted to blame the victim. Now, he attempts to blame his defense counsel and the trial judge. But a careful review of this entire tragic episode makes plain that [Slager] has no one to blame for his present predicament and sentence but himself. [Slager] is the architect of his own demise.”

Editor’s note: This story is breaking and will be updated.

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