But federal Judge Richard Gergel wrote in his ruling Monday that he believed Slager’s lawyer Andy Savage, who said in 2017 court papers that he told his client about every plea offer. Slager testified during a hearing last week he didn’t know about the initial deal from prosecutors.
Slager pleaded guilty to a federal civil rights charge for shooting Scott in the back five times on April 4, 2015. Slager had pulled over the 50-year-old Black motorist for a broken brake light when their confrontation was captured on a bystander’s cellphone video that later spread worldwide on social media.
Savage said in court papers as part of Slager’s appeal that he did not tell the ex-officer about the potential plea deal offered eight months before because of a conversation he had with Norton during a private meeting about public funding for Slager’s defense where the judge said this “is not a murder case.”
Savage took it to believe Norton was going to rule it was a manslaughter case where the upper end of the sentencing guidelines were eight years in prison, nearly four years less than the lower end of the prosecution’s offer. He recommended Slager plead guilty without the deal.
Slager’s state murder charge was dropped as part of the federal plea deal. He could have faced life in prison if convicted of that charge and his lawyers said Slager wanted to spend his prison time in federal custody where he felt he would be safer than in state prison.
Gergel praised Savage and his fellow lawyers in his ruling for being “zealous advocates” and said their work that led to a four-day sentencing hearing that cost nearly $100,000 in taxpayer money “far exceeded a minimally acceptable standard of performance and showed elements of originality and creativity in the face of a daunting set of facts.”
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