Supporters and detractors of former NYPD Officer Peter Liang now have another controversial decision to digest — the judge in the case has reduced the verdict from manslaughter to criminally negligent homicide — a move which has the Brooklyn district attorney’s office putting in motion an appeal to reinstate the victim’s original second-degree manslaughter conviction.
Judge Danny Chun reduced Liang’s conviction to criminally negligent homicide and sentenced the ex-cop from Bensonhurst to five years probation and 800 hours of community service on Tuesday, April 19.
Liang, who was convicted of manslaughter and faced up to 15 years in prison for fatally shooting 28-year-old Akai Gurley in 2014, will not go to prison – an outcome that District Attorney Ken Thompson recommended earlier this month. However, the DA opposes the reduction in charges, according to a press representative.
“[The verdict] was reduced to criminally negligent homicide, which our office will be appealing,” a DA’s office press representative told this paper. “We prosecuted the case aggressively and we will file an appeal because we believe – and the jury agreed – that [the facts] and circumstances of the case warrant a manslaughter charge.”
Thompson weighed in on the sentencing in a statement.
“My office vigorously prosecuted Peter Liang for manslaughter because the evidence established that his conduct was criminal and the rule of law demanded that he be held accountable for his actions in taking Akai Gurley’s life,” he said . “While our sentencing recommendation was fair under the unique circumstances of this case, we respectfully disagree with the judge’s decision to reduce the jury’s verdict and will fight to reverse it on appeal.”
Although evidence presented at the original trial established that Gurley was both innocent and unarmed at the time of the shooting, and that Liang was not under any threat that should have caused him to discharge his weapon, Thompson recommended no jail time for the Bensonhurst resident, a recommendation that angered Gurley’s family members and their supporters.
“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,” Thompson said earlier this month, noting that Liang has no prior criminal history and poses no future threat to public safety. “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.”
Prior to Thompson’s recommendation, thousands of protestors rallied at Cadman Plaza in February to show their support for 28-year-old Liang, maintaining that the incident was an accident, not a crime. However, many other New Yorkers hailed the conviction as justice, especially in the wake of the grand jury’s failure to indict Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner.