First came the words of forgiveness, followed by a sentence of retribution: Twenty years behind bars.
A white policeman who gunned down an unarmed black man received absolution from the victim’s mother Thursday before a federal judge threw disgraced ex-cop Michael Slager in jail for two decades.
The former South Carolina law enforcer, after hearing from victim Walter Scott’s mother, wiped tears from his eyes as a four-day court hearing came to an emotional end.
“I forgive Michael Slager,” said Judy Scott, facing her son’s killer. “I forgive you. I pray for you, that you would repent and let Jesus come in your life.”
Slager wept only a few feet away at the defense table. “I’m sorry,” mouthed the disgraced law enforcer who pumped five bullets into Scott’s back after a traffic stop.
Michael Slager (right) walks from the Charleston courthouse following a mistrial last year.
U.S. District Judge David Norton, who earlier ruled the cop’s shooting of Scott was second-degree murder, imposed the lengthy jail term — still less than the 24 years that he considered.
“This is a tragedy that shouldn’t have happened,” said Norton.
The judge further declared Slager guilty of obstruction of justice for his initial story that Scott, 50, was shot in self-defense after the suspect tried to steal the cop’s Taser.
The video told a starkly different tale: The officer was actually standing 17 feet behind the victim when he squeezed off eight shots, with five striking Scott from behind.
Judy Scott (pictured) faced her son’s killer and said, “I forgive you.”
After the shooting, Slager placed the stun gun alongside the dead man’s body. The cop insisted he was just securing the weapon, with prosecutors charging it was part of a failed cover-up.
The disturbing video went viral on social media, and was played again at this week’s hearing.
Slager acknowledged his guilt as he addressed the victim’s relatives inside the courtroom.
“With my actions that day, Walter Scott is no longer with his family, and I am responsible for that,” said Slager, 36.
Walter Scott was fatally shot by Slager in 2015.
Slager spent much of the hearing staring downward or wiping his eyes before the judge imposed sentence. Norton had set a sentencing range of 19-to-24 years before announcing his final decision.
A state murder trial ended with a hung jury, setting off angry denunciations of the prosecution.
But Slager was jailed last May after pleading guilty to violating the black man’s civil rights.
With News wire services.