The prosecutor who won former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke’s murder conviction says he may ask the Illinois Supreme Court to throw out the sentence handed down by Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan.
That sentence would allow Van Dyke, who killed Laquan McDonald, to be released from prison in about three years.
“We are currently reviewing the trial court’s ruling in conjunction with the relevant case law and statutory authority that bears on the sentence,” Special Prosecutor Joseph McMahon said in a written statement Thursday afternoon.
McMahon’s comments come a day after Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said his office is reviewing the sentence’s legality.
McMahon said the law does not allow a prosecutor to appeal a sentence but “the propriety of a sentence may be challenged” by petitioning for a Supreme Court ruling that the sentencing violated the law.
A jury in October convicted Van Dyke of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm, one for each shot into McDonald. Gaughan last Friday sentenced Van Dyke to 81 months in prison.
Many police accountability advocates condemned the punishment as far too lenient.
And some legal experts say Gaughan may have erred in basing the sentence on the second-degree murder count, which carries lighter penalties than the battery counts.
On Thursday afternoon, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said the sentence surprised her.
“Dealing with these types of cases on a regular basis, I felt that, given the circumstances around Laquan McDonald’s death, the sentence might have been heavier,” Foxx said after a speech downtown.
But Foxx said she lacks legal standing to challenge the sentence because her predecessor, Anita Alvarez, withdrew the office from prosecuting Van Dyke in 2016 after civil rights groups accused her of pro-police bias.
Van Dyke’s attorney, meanwhile, slammed Raoul for reviewing the sentence.
“Another politician has chosen to exploit the tragic death of Laquan McDonald for his own political gain,” the attorney, Dan Herbert, said in a written statement. “The judge in this case carefully considered the arguments made and issued the correct ruling under the law.”
Van Dyke shot McDonald, 17, in 2014 as the teen carried a knife and walked away from officers. A police dashcam video contradicted reports by officers that McDonald was attacking Van Dyke.
Last week, a Cook County judge acquitted three officers of charges they covered up for Van Dyke.