Michael Slager Now Faces Federal Charges For Walter Scott's Death, Too
On Wednesday, former South Carolina cop Michael Slager was indicted on federal charges for fatally shooting Walter Scott in April 2015. Slager was already fired from the police force and charged with murder in a state court, but now faces additional charges for allegedly depriving the victim of his civil rights, obstruction of justice, and unlawful use of a weapon during the commission of a crime. The total of four charges brought against the ex-cop are more than what's usually seen in cases of white police officers hurting or killing unarmed black men.
The grand jury met a month ago and handed down their decision Tuesday, but the indictment was kept sealed until Wednesday. It alleges that the 34-year-old abused his authority as a police officer when responding to Scott running from a traffic stop with excessive force, shooting him multiple times. The obstruction of justice charge stems from Slager initially telling state investigators that Scott was coming at him with a Taser when he fired his weapon eight times at the 50-year-old.
The main evidence in the case against Slager is a witness' cellphone video of the incident, which shows him fire multiple rounds at Scott as he ran away after a struggle with the officer.
Slager was put in solitary confinement following the murder charge South Carolina brought against him, but was released on half a million dollars' bail in January under the condition that he remain on house arrest, venturing outside only to go to work, church, and medical or legal appointments. The federal charges don't carry a minimum sentence, but Slager could get life in prison if found guilty, since Scott died. As the various charges brought against him are separately at the state and federal level and cover different crimes, he'll be tried twice without the protection of double jeopardy.
The former officer will have an initial appearance before a judge for the federal charges Wednesday afternoon. His murder trial is scheduled to start in the fall, though state prosecutors are asking that it be moved either up or back because Solicitor Scarlett Wilson has to prepare for another huge case — that of Dylann Roof, who also faces state and federal charges for the murders of nine people in a Charleston church in June 2015. Roof's state trial was moved to January, and the South Carolina Supreme Court ordered that Wilson not try other cases before Roof's, so Slager's trial will likely begin in the summer of 2017.