Illinois High Court To Rule On Jason Van Dyke Sentence | WBEZ
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Illinois Supreme Court To Rule On Jason Van Dyke’s Sentence Next Week

The Illinois Supreme Court is planning to rule next week on whether to order a redo on the sentencing of Jason Van Dyke, the former Chicago police officer who killed teenager Laquan McDonald, according to a spokesman for the justices.

Supreme Court communications director Christopher Bonjean said between next Monday and Thursday the justices will “definitely” issue a short ruling on a petition last month from Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and special prosecutor Joseph McMahon that challenged Van Dyke’s sentence.

Bonjean said the decision will rule the petition “denied” or “allowed” and could include instructions for the petitioners, the defendant or Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan, who oversaw the trial.

Gaughan sentenced Van Dyke in January to 81 months in prison with the possibility of release in half that time, a penalty that many police accountability advocates condemned as too lenient.

Raoul and McMahon, the Kane County State’s Attorney, argue in their petition that Gaughan erred by basing the sentence on Van Dyke’s second-degree murder conviction instead of his 16 convictions of aggravated battery with a firearm — which carry stiffer penalties.

The petition also challenges a Gaughan statement during sentencing that the 16 battery counts, if considered for Van Dyke’s penalty, “would all merge” into a single act. If those counts were sentenced separately, Van Dyke could end up with a much longer prison term.

Gaughan, who did not file an objection to the Raoul and McMahon petition, said during the sentencing that it was “common sense” that second-degree murder was more serious than the battery counts.

Van Dyke’s attorneys, in an objection to the Supreme Court petition, argue that the attorney general and special prosecutor have no right to challenge the sentence and that Gaughan’s approach was consistent with Illinois law.

Van Dyke’s lawyers have also said the imprisoned former officer was not planning to ask for a new trial but would reconsider if he ended up with a much longer sentence.

McDonald, 17, was carrying a knife and walking away from officers the night of Oct. 20, 2014, when he was shot by Van Dyke. A police dashcam video contradicted reports by officers that McDonald was attacking Van Dyke.

Protests led to a yearlong U.S. Department of Justice investigation that found widespread constitutional abuses by CPD and a lack of accountability for the misconduct. That probe led to a reform agreement, known as a consent decree, that will be enforced by a federal judge.

Three police officers were criminally charged with covering up for Van Dyke. In January, Cook County Judge Domenica Stephenson found them not guilty.

Next month, four other officers are scheduled for a trial-like Chicago Police Board hearing on recommendations to fire them for allegedly lying about the shooting.

Chip Mitchell reports out of WBEZ’s West Side studio about policing. Follow him at @ChipMitchell1.

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