*As the case of New York Police Department officer Peter Liang continues, the Brooklyn prosecutor on the case is requesting no jail time for the embattled lawman.
NBC New York reports that Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson put in the request on Wednesday (03-23-16) for state Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun to not hand down a jail sentence to Liang, who was convicted of accidentally firing a stray shot into a public housing stairwell that killed Akai Gurley, an unarmed black man.
In Thompson’s eyes, justice will be served if Liang, a Chinese-American, is sentenced to probation and six months of house arrest.
“From the beginning, this tragic case has always been about justice and not about revenge,” Thompson said in a news release announcing his recommendation.
He said that while Liang acted recklessly, he didn’t intend to kill the victim, Akai Gurley. As a result of the incident, Liang was fired from the NYPD last month.
“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 stated.
The best solution, Thompson recommended to the judge, was to sentence Liang to serve five years’ probation, six months of home confinement and 500 hours of community service. Despite the charges not carrying a requirement for prison time, Liang faced up to 15 years in prison.
Thompson’s recommendation comes two years after Liang, a rookie officer at the time, was patrolling a public housing high-rise in 2014. When the incident happened, Liang’s gun was drawn and he admitted to firing his weapon after being startled by a sudden sound. Upon ricocheting off a wall, the bullet hit Gurley, who was on a lower floor. In February, Liang was convicted of a manslaughter charge regarding the 28-year-old’s death.
Reacting to Thompson’s recommendation, Gurley’s family said they were “outraged” and would implore state Justice Chun to ignore it and sentence Liang to time in prison at a court proceeding next month.
“Peter Liang has not served a single day in jail, and he must be held accountable,” the family said in a statement. “The district attorney’s inadequate recommendation diminishes what Peter Liang did. It diminishes Akai’s death.”
During Liang’s trial, prosecutors claimed that he shouldn’t have had his gun out and his actions were reckless. In addition, the prosecutors pointed out that Liang did nothing to help Gurley as he lay dying on the floor.
Liang’s attorney countered the prosecutors, arguing that although Gurley’s death was tragic, it was not a crime.
NBC New York notes that a second officer who was present at the shooting scene was also fired from the force over allegations that he didn’t do enough to help Gurley as he lay dying.
Although the judge in the case doesn’t need to take Thompson up on his proposal next month at the sentencing, the site acknowledged that sentencing recommendations from prosecutors typically hold significant weight in most criminal cases.
In light of the circumstances of the case, it has been watched closely by Black Lives Matter activists, who have voiced their observation of lenient treatment of officers as well as and by New York City’s large Chinese community, where some have defended Liang while claiming he was made a scapegoat.
Since Liang’s conviction, more than 10,000 supporters of the now fired officer have protested with rallies in New York and across the U.S. after the verdict.