Brooklyn DA Won’t Push Prison Sentence for Ex-NYPD Cop Peter Liang

By
New York City Police (NYPD) officer Peter Liang (C) departs the criminal court after an arraignment hearing in the Brooklyn borough of New York City February 11, 2015. The New York City rookie police officer was charged with manslaughter in the second degree and five other offenses on Wednesday for the fatal shooting of an unarmed man in the darkened stairwell of a housing project last November. REUTERS/Brendan MCDermid (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW) - RTR4P81A
Photo: Brendan McDermid / Reuters

The Brooklyn district attorney’s office is not going to push for ex-NYPD cop Peter Liang to serve prison time and will instead ask for probation. Liang was found guilty last month of manslaughter and official misconduct in the November 2014 shooting death of Akai Gurley in the stairwell of an East New York housing project.

Specifically, prosecutors are asking that Liang, who was officially fired from the force after his conviction, serve five years probation, six months of which will include house arrest with electric monitoring. The DA’s office will also require that Liang complete 500 hours of community service.

Liang’s manslaughter conviction carried a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison. 

Brooklyn district attorney Kenneth Thompson, in a statement, called the recommended punishment “fair,” adding that “this tragic case has always been about justice and not about revenge.” Here’s part of his statement, per CBS New York: 

Peter Liang was indicted, prosecuted and subsequently convicted by a jury because his reckless actions caused an innocent man to lose his life. There is no evidence, however, that he intended to kill or injure Akai Gurley. When Mr. Liang went into that building that night, he did so as part of his job and to keep the people of Brooklyn and our city safe.

In sentencing a defendant, the facts of the crime and the particular characteristics of that person must be considered. Mr. Liang has no prior criminal history and poses no future threat to public safety. 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.

Liang’s attorneys had argued that the rookie cop had accidentally fired his gun after he was startled by a loud noise in the stairwell of the Pink Houses in East New York. The bullet had ricocheted off the wall and hit 28-year-old Akai Gurley, who died at the scene. The prosecution argued that even if the shooting wasn’t intentional, Liang had acted recklessly and unprofessionally by having his gun out and his hand near the trigger. The DA also argued that Liang was more concerned with his job than he was with helping the dying man, a claim bolstered by witness testimony. 

Liang has since hired new attorneys, who filed a motion last week to set aside the manslaughter conviction because Liang was “grossly” and inadequately trained.” (The NYPD CPR instructor who taught Liang was placed on desk duty earlier this month.)

Liang will be formally sentenced April 14.