U.S. NEWS

Illinois Attorney General Challenges Jason Van Dyke Sentence In Laquan McDonald Murder

Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke was sentenced in January to 81 months in prison for the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald.

Illinois’ top prosecutor is challenging Jason Van Dyke’s prison sentence after the former Chicago police officer was found guilty in the 2014 murder of teenager Laquan McDonald and was sentenced to 81 months in prison.

Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Special Prosecutor Joe McMahon spoke Monday at a joint press conference and released a written statement on the decision. Raoul said he formally filed a mandamus petition asking the state Supreme Court to review the case and order Van Dyke to be resentenced.

Raoul said he is challenging Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan’s decision to sentence Van Dyke for second-degree murder instead of the 16 counts of aggravated battery he was also convicted on. According to the filing, Raoul and McMahon believe the ex-cop should have been sentenced on the aggravated battery convictions, which could have allowed Van Dyke to be given at least 96 years in prison thanks to state sentencing guidelines. Prosecutors during Van Dyke’s trial initially asked for the officer to be sentenced a minimum of 18 years.

“It is important that a police officer was held accountable for criminal conduct,” McMahon said in the written statement. “But we argued at the sentencing hearing that Jason Van Dyke should be sentenced for the aggravated battery with a firearm convictions. The ability for the prosecution to challenge a sentence is very narrow, but this might be one of those situations.” 

Van Dyke was sentenced in January for killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald, a black teenager whom the officer shot at 16 times four years ago in Chicago. The shooting was captured on dashcam video, which sparked nationwide calls for justice after its release in 2015. The sentence length also upset activists who expected a more severe punishment.

Jennifer Blagg, one of Van Dyke’s attorneys, told HuffPost the officer’s legal team filed a notice of appeal on Friday after hearing about Raoul’s intent to file a challenge. Blagg said she always admired Raoul for his history of pushing for criminal justice reform, but that this filing is “purely political.”

“He’s turning his back on everything he stood for” for wanting “a 96-year sentence,” Blagg said.

Raoul said at the press conference that it is “nonsense” to think the filing is politically motivated, Chicago Sun-Times reporter Jon Seidel tweeted.

CONVERSATIONS