CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- A white former South Carolina police officer has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for shooting an unarmed black motorist to death in 2015.
A federal judge handed down the sentence for Michael Slager on Thursday. Slager pleaded guilty to violating Walter Scott's civil rights by unjustly shooting him in the back five times as he was running away from a traffic stop.
In arguing for a lighter sentence, Slager's attorneys told the judge that the former North Charleston officer and Scott fought on the ground and Scott reached for his stun gun during the struggle.
A bystander's cellphone video didn't capture the struggle but did show Slager firing into Scott as he was running away.
A federal judge has ruled that a former South Carolina officer committed second-degree murder when he shot an unarmed black motorist to death.
U.S. District Judge David Norton on Thursday made that determination in the April 2015 shooting of Walter Scott.
The ruling comes as part of federal sentencing proceedings for Michael Slager. The former North Charleston officer has been in jail since pleading guilty in May to violating Scott's civil rights, and Norton is tasked with deciding how much time he spends in prison.
Norton also said Slager obstructed justice when he made statements to state police after the shooting.
This week, federal prosecutors and Slager's lawyers have called witnesses to testify about technical aspects of the case, including what happened to Slager's stun gun before the shooting. The officer has said he shot Scott in self-defense after fearing for his own life when the man grabbed the weapon and turned it toward him.
For three days, attorneys representing the federal government and a former South Carolina officer charged in an unarmed black motorist's shooting death have presented technical testimony to a judge considering how much time Michael Slager should spend in federal prison.
That includes use of Slager's stun gun, which the former officer says Walter Scott grabbed and turned on him, causing Slager to fear for his life and shoot in self-defense. Slager, who is white, fired five times into Scott's back as he ran away.
On Thursday, attorneys are expected to call friends and relatives of both men who'll tell the judge how Scott's death and the officer's arrest have affected their lives. What's known as victim impact testimony is intended to help the judge weigh the personal implications a crime has had.