Michael Slager to plead guilty to civil rights violation, avoids murder charge

Michael Slager,  a white former South Carolina police officer will plead guilty Tuesday in a federal civil rights case over the fatal shooting of unarmed black motorist Walter Scott.

According to the plea agreement, Slager will plead guilty to one federal charge of violating Scott’s civil rights. In exchange, two other federal charges against him will be dropped, as will a state murder charge. The civil rights violation can include a sentence of life in prison, but prosecutors are expected to ask for a more lenient sentence.

Slager was an officer for the North Charleston Police Department when he pulled Scott over for a broken tail light. A few moments later, Scott ran away.

A foot chase ensued, and a bystander’s cell phone video captured Slager firing eight times — striking Scott several times in the back.

The footage became a rallying point of protests nationwide against a series of high-profile deaths of African Americans at the hands of police, including Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

In the days after the shooting, federal prosecutors alleged that Slager “knowingly and intentionally misled” state investigators in his account of the shooting.

The defense in Slager’s first trial claimed the former North Charleston police department patrolman feared for his life and fired in self-defense. After a mistrial, the prosecution vowed to bring Slager to trial again.

Slager’s lawyer, Andrew Savage, said the former police officer will plead guilty to deprivation of rights under color of law.

“We hope that Michael’s acceptance of responsibility will help the Scott family as they continue to grieve their loss,” Savage said in a statement. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled, Savage said.

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