CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A virtual evidentiary hearing continued Tuesday as former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager works to overturn his 20-year sentence.
Slager was sentenced after pleading guilty to violating Walter Scott’s civil rights following an attempted traffic stop in North Charleston back in 2015.
His new attorneys have spent the last two days arguing that his previous defense, led by attorney Andy Savage, provided him ineffective counsel which Slager says ultimately led to his sentencing.
Slager testified on Tuesday that he only agreed to a plea deal after his attorney told him the judge on the case, David Norton, stated that he did not believe this was a murder case.
The former officer said his attorney assured him that he would not receive as much time in prison since the judge made that comment – Slager said that is why he agreed to sign the plea deal.
Former South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon said this is an interesting hearing.
“Because Andy expected and told his client that’s not going to be a problem – that it’s not going to be murder, it’s going to be below that – therefore the guidelines would be lower,” he said.
Savage and his team were hoping for about 10 years – instead, he ended up with a 20-year sentence after pleading guilty.
Slager testified he was not told about one plea deal offer that was made by the government. He said Savage traveled to his prison to tell him in person that he had neglected to tell him about the offer.
During closing arguments, the new judge assigned to the case, Judge Richard M. Gergel, stopped Slager’s new defense attorney and said, “malice was found because a law enforcement officer was shooting an unarmed man in the back and then lied about it.”
He said Slager looked to blame the victim in his trial and now seeks to blame the judge and his lawyer.
Judge Gergel also stated that Slager is responsible for his own fate and said, “I think calling Mr. Savage ineffective is ridiculous.”
Anthony Scott, the brother of Walter Scott, spoke during the virtual hearing, saying on behalf of his family, they do have empathy for Michael Slager wanting to spend time with his son in the child’s growing ages – it’s something that was taken away from them when his brother was shot.
Scott said he is glad to see the process work out.
“I do think this system will be able to address this and make a fair decision, and I have a lot of confidence in Judge Gergel the process is working,” said Condon. “So, the fact that this concern has been raised, I think rather than looking ensconced at this and thinking there’s something we missed here- I think it’s actually good.”
Judge Gergel said he will personally go over everything in this hearing again and write the order in this case. There is no word on when that order will be released.