Cop Who Killed Walter Scott Pleads Guilty, Feds Agree to Recommend Lighter Sentence of 14 to 19 Years

The charge of violating rights under color of law comes with a potential life sentence, or no prison time at all.


Scott family

Michael Slager, the cop who shot and killed Walter Scott in North Charleston, S.C., while Scott was running away from him, has entered a guilty plea in federal court this afternoon after entering into a plea agreement with state and federal prosecutors.

State prosecutors, who were preparing for a re-trial after a hung jury, agreed to drop charges and federal prosecutors agreed to drop two charges, obstruction of justice and use of a firearm during a crime of violence, in exchange for a guilty plea on the charge of violating civil rights under the color of law.

Additionally, federal prosecutors agreed to recommend a lighter sentence. The plea agreement specifies that "the government will advocate for the Court to apply the guidelines for Second Degree Murder and Obstruction of Justice, and reserves the right to seek a guidelines sentence, up to and including a sentence of life imprisonment," and that prosecutors will apply a 3 level reduction to the sentencing guidelines.

According to the federal sentencing guidelines manual, that means Slager can expect to be sentenced to between 14 years and eight months to 18 years and eight months in prison for killing Scott, if the judge heeds the recommendation by federal prosecutors. For convicts without a previous criminal history, second degree murder usually comes with a recommended sentence of 19 years and seven months to 24 years and five months, while obstruction of justice carries a recommended sentence of 15 to 21 months—the plea agreement can be expected to shave about six years off the recommended sentencing.

Other provisions of the plea agreement include the government being permitted to withdraw from its obligations while retaining Slager's guilty plea if he "engages in conduct inconsistent with accepting responsibility," such as making statements minimizing his crime or "unlawful personal use of a controlled substance." Federal and state prosecutors can also withdraw from the plea agreement if Slager breaks any other federal or state law or any other provision of the agreement, "express or implied."

Slager will be sentenced at a future hearing.