The killing of Laquan McDonald that roiled Chicago for years ended with an 81-month prison sentence for police officer Jason Van Dyke on Friday that only deepened the rifts, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. For the family and supporters of Van Dyke, the sentence by Judge Vincent Gaughan represented hope and a measure of mercy. Prosecutors had asked for 18 to 20 years in prison. The 40-year-old officer, stripped of his powers and facing firing, will likely be paroled after serving only half the sentence. Van Dyke’s lawyer, Daniel Herbert, said the officer “was not just relieved, he was happy … about the prospect about life ahead of him.” To the family of McDonald and the activists who brought the murder to light, the sentence was little more than a slap on the wrist. The sentencing came the day after another judge cleared three of officers of charges they lied to cover up for Van Dyke.
Marvin Hunter, McDonald’s great-uncle, said, “This sentence … reduced Laquan McDonald’s life to a second-class citizen.” The judge cut a break for Van Dyke, sentencing him only on a second-degree murder charge, not 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. Defendants must serve at least 85 percent of a sentence for aggravated battery with a firearm. The last Chicago police officer to be convicted of murder on duty was Richard Nuccio five decades ago, for murdering a knife-wielding teenager. He received a 14-year sentence in 1969. Van Dyke also will likely serve less time in prison than Chicago cop Marco Proano, who was convicted in federal court in 2017 of civil rights violations after firing into a stolen car filled with teenagers, wounding two but killing no one. Proano got five years in prison but will likely serve 85 percent of that sentence.