South Carolina Cop Gets Probation, No Jail Time For Killing Black Driver [VIDEO]

South Carolina State Police, Screenshot, WLTX

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Casey Harper Contributor
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A white South Carolina cop will serve probation and community service after fatally shooting a black driver in 2014, a sentence his own attorney admits is the best he could’ve hoped for.

North Augusta police officer Justin Craven, 27, pleaded guilty to misconduct in office Monday and received a sentence of three years probation and 80 hours of community service. Prosecutors hoped to slap Craven with the very serious voluntary manslaughter charge, but the grand jury wouldn’t indict him on that count, WLTX reports. After the sentencing, state police released a video of the shooting.

A charge of voluntary manslaughter would have come with a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Instead, prosecutors settled for the felony charge of discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle, which comes with a maximum 10-year sentence. The plea deal allows Craven to walk away free.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome, as far as the sentence is concerned,” Craven’s attorney Jack Swerling told reporters. “We got probation, no house arrest, and he’s pretty much free to go and live his life the way he wants. He’s got a young family, he’s got a job, and, but for this incident in his life, he’s unblemished.”

State police released a video of the shooting after Craven’s sentencing. In the video, Craven follows Ernest Satterwhite, 68, down a long driveway to Satterwhite’s home. Craven can be seen getting out of his car, drawing his gun, and putting it through the driver’s window. The video doesn’t show Satterwhite, other than a possible tussling and Satterwhite’s hand reaching out of the window. Craven fires multiple times into the cab and two other officers come up to the car.

Swerling said Satterwhite was trying to grab the gun, which made Craven fear for his life and fire. Swerling admitted Craven should not have rushed into the situation. The shooting came at the end of a roughly 13-minute high-speed chase. Satterwhite’s blood alcohol content was about twice the legal limit.

“His mistake in judgment was approaching the car and getting too close,” Swerling told The Associated Press. “He had to make a split-second decision instead of like now, when everyone gets all the time they want to analyze it.”

North Augusta paid $1.2 million to settle a lawsuit with Satterwhite’s family. Craven’s lawyer said he doesn’t plan to go back to being a cop.











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