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Kim Potter: Ex-Minnesota cop sentenced to 2 years in prison for Daunte Wright’s death – less than prosecutors asked

Potter will have to serve two-thirds of his prison sentence, or 16 months, according to state law. With good behavior, she will be able to benefit from a supervised release for the remaining third.

Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu called the sentence an “extremely difficult decision.”

To justify this, she pointed to several mitigating factors, saying it was undisputed that Potter never intended to use his weapon. Chu told the court she considered all four reasons for incarceration – retaliation, incapacitation, deterrence and rehabilitation – saying retribution would be the only purpose served in Potter’s case.

“There should legitimately be some accountability,” she said.

But Potter is a “cop who made a tragic mistake,” the judge added. “She pulled out her gun thinking it was a Taser and ended up killing a young man.”

She called the case “highly unusual”, noting two other cases involving police officers tried by this court.

“The other cases of officers tried by this court are separate,” she said, referring to the cases of Derek Chauvin, who was convicted of the murder of George Floyd, and Mohamed Noor, who was convicted. guilty of the death of Justine Ruszczyk.

“He’s not a cop convicted of murder for using his knee to corner a person for nine-and-a-half minutes while out of breath,” she said. “This is not a cop convicted of manslaughter for intentionally drawing his gun and shooting his partner and killing an unarmed woman who approached his squad.”

Wright’s family were “completely stunned” by the sentencing, their attorney Ben Crump said in a statement.

“While there is a small sense of justice because she will be serving a nominal sentence, the family is also deeply disappointed that there has not been a greater level of accountability,” the statement read. “The judge’s comments at sentencing showed a clear lack of compassion for the victim in this tragedy and were devastating for the family.”

Shortly before his sentencing, Potter tearfully apologized to Wright’s family, saying, “I am so sorry to have caused the death of your son, father, brother, uncle, grandson, nephew and the rest of your family,” adding, “I’m sorry I broke your heart.”

“I pray that one day you can find forgiveness,” the former officer said, “only because hate is so destructive to all of us.”

Potter also apologized to the City of Brooklyn Center, saying she loved working for the community and those who still do are “good and honorable people.”

Potter’s tears prevailed over justice, says Wright’s mother

After Friday’s hearing, Wright’s mother told reporters her family was “very disappointed” with the sentence.

“That’s the problem with our justice system today. White women’s tears outweigh justice,” Katie Wright said. She thought her own “white woman’s tears would be good enough,” she said, “because they’re real and genuine.”

Wright’s father also expressed strong displeasure with Potter’s sentence. “I feel cheated, I feel hurt,” he said.

“They were so into her feelings and what’s going on with her,” Arbuey Wright said, referring to Potter, “that they forgot my son was killed.”

Earlier Friday morning, Wright’s parents, his two siblings and the mother of his child stood on a podium outside court and urged the judge to impose the maximum sentence possible. Wright’s mother said Potter was a “police officer who was sworn to serve and protect for 26 years”.

“But not that day. That day she didn’t protect,” she said. “She let Daunte, our family and our community down.”

Chyna Whitaker, the mother of Wright’s son, Daunte Wright Jr., said in her own victim impact statement that Potter took her son’s best friend.

The 2-year-old doesn’t quite understand his father’s absence but he feels it, she says. She sometimes finds her son staring at a poster of his father in his bedroom. And when shown pictures or videos of Wright, the child smiles, she says, and says “Dad.”

“My son shouldn’t have to wear a ‘rest in peace’ shirt from his dad,” Whitaker said, asking for the maximum sentence.

Under Minnesota law, an offender convicted of two or more counts of the same act is sentenced on their most serious conviction. The maximum penalty for first degree manslaughter based on the reckless use/handling of a firearm is 15 years in prison and/or a $30,000 fine.

However, under state sentencing guidelines, a judge has the discretion to sentence convicted offenders with no criminal history, like Potter, to about six to eight and a half years in prison.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison asked Chu to impose the alleged 86-month sentence in a sentencing notice filed Tuesday. This sentence, he wrote, would reflect the “seriousness of the loss of (Wright’s) life” as well as Potter’s “guilt” in causing Wright’s death.

Friday was a “dark day,” Ellison said in a statement, but he accepted Chu’s decision, urging everyone to do the same.

“I’m not asking you to agree with his decision, which takes nothing away from the veracity of the jury’s verdict. I know it hurts those close to Daunte Wright,” he said. . “I ask that we remember the beauty of Daunte Wright, that we hold his memory in our hearts, and that we know that no number of years in prison could ever capture the wonder of this young man’s life. ”

The attorney general hopes more can be done to prevent confusion of arms, he said, adding that Potter could “make a powerful contribution”.

The officer said she mistook her gun for the Taser

Wright’s shooting took place while Chauvin was on trial in Minneapolis for the murder of Floyd and sparked days of unrest at Brooklyn Center, reigniting protests in a metropolitan area that has time and again found itself the epicenter of conversations about policing and the use of force.
Kim Potter: Ex-Minnesota cop sentenced to 2 years in prison for Daunte Wright’s death – less than prosecutors asked
Wright was arrested by police on April 11 for an expired tag and an illegal air freshener, authorities say. During the stop, the police learned that Wright had an outstanding warrant, and when Potter and a trainee officer attempted to arrest him, Wright attempted to flee.
Video of the incident shows Potter, a 26-year-old police veteran, repeatedly shouting “Taser” before shooting Wright with his handgun.

“Holy shit! I just shot him,” she said, according to the video, adding, “I grabbed the wrong fuckin’ gun, and I shot him.”

Potter resigned from the police department a few days later.

Potter’s trial focused on his fatal mistake: prosecutors blamed it on Potter’s recklessness and negligence, while defense attorneys argued it was an honest mistake. and tragic, but not of a crime.

“Accidents can still be felonies if they occur due to recklessness or culpable negligence,” Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Erin Eldrige said in closing argument. “It is not a defense for the crimes charged.”

Kim Potter: Ex-Minnesota cop sentenced to 2 years in prison for Daunte Wright’s death – less than prosecutors asked

Potter’s attorney, Earl Grey, argued the former officer was within his rights to use lethal force to protect a fellow officer, who was searching the vehicle when Wright tried to flee.

More than 30 witnesses testified during eight days of testimony, including Potter, who broke down in tears as he described the shooting and the moments leading up to it, telling the court, “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”

“I was very upset. I just shot someone. I’m sorry that happened,” she said after a prosecutor questioned her about her behavior after the shooting. “I am really sorry.”

The jury ultimately found Potter guilty after deliberating for approximately 27 hours.

Potter has been incarcerated since her conviction at a correctional facility in Shakopee, about 25 miles southwest of Minneapolis, according to Minnesota Department of Corrections records.

CNN’s Theresa Waldrop and Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.

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