NEW YORK — Emotions ran high just moments after Judge Danny Chun announced his sentence for rookie NYPD Officer Peter Liang.
Liang, was convicted of manslaughter in February for the shooting death of Akai Gurley, 28. Gurley was unarmed, but Liang has maintained the shooting was accidental.
Following District Attorney Ken Thompson’s recommendation Judge Chun said Liang will not serve any jail time. Instead, he will complete 800 hours of community service. That’s 300 more hours than Thompson’s suggestion.
Additionally Liang will also be given five years of probation, which was expected.
What was not expected, was a modification to the jury’s verdict on the manslaughter charge.
“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,” said District Attorney Ken Thompson in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
Thompson said while he believes his sentencing recommendation was fair “under the unique circumstances of the case,” he disagrees with the decision to reduce the jury’s verdict. He says they will fight to reverse it on an appeal.
Now revised to criminally negligent homicide, which is still felony but considered a downgrade. Judge Chun said he believed Liang was not aware of Gurley’s presence in the stairwell and that his reaction was one reacting to sound.
Rookie NYPD Officer Peter Liang briefly addressed the courtroom. Throughout the proceeding, however, he sat stoic and solemn, bowing his head down as Melissa Butler, Gurley’s girlfriend and Kimberly Ballinger, the mother of Gurley’s 3-year-old daughter, read their victim impact statements.
Liang’s supporters chanted outside of the courtroom, while supporters Gurley broke down, angered over Liang walking away from prison time.
Gurley’s aunt, Hertensia Petersen, says the outcome shows “there’s no justice.”
Prosecutors say they will appeal the judge’s downgraded charge of criminally negligent homicide.
As for the Gurley family’s civil case against the city and the police department, we are told that will proceed as planned.