MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota prosecutors have apparently dropped their pursuit of a longer-than-usual sentence for the suburban Minneapolis police officer who said he mistook his handgun for his Taser when she killed Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black motorist.
Kim Potter, 49, is expected to be sentenced on Friday following her December conviction of first-degree manslaughter. In a filing this week, prosecutors said a sentence of just over seven years — which is the presumptive sentence under state guidelines — would be appropriate.
“The presumed sentence takes into account the main elements of the conviction: the death of Daunte Wright and the recklessness of the defendant,” wrote the prosecutor Matt Frank.
Potter’s lawyers are asking for less than usual, including just probation. Frank wrote that prosecutors disagree with the defense, but “the state recognizes that this is a unique case given the context in which defendant Potter handled his firearm from reckless way”.
Potter was convicted of first- and second-degree manslaughter in the April 11 murder of Wright, who was arrested by Brooklyn Center officers for having expired license plate tags and an air freshener. staring at his rear view mirror. Officers learned he had an outstanding warrant for a weapons possession charge and he walked away as they attempted to arrest him.
The video shows Potter yelling several times that she was going to taser Wright, but she had her gun drawn and shot him in the chest.
Under Minnesota law, Potter, who is white, will only be sentenced for the most serious conviction of first-degree manslaughter. State sentencing guidelines call for a sentence ranging from just over six years to about 8½ years, with the presumed sentence being just over seven years. The sentencing guidelines are advisory, but judges cannot exceed or lower them unless they find a compelling reason.
Prosecutors initially argued that aggravating factors warranted a sentence above the indicative range. Among them, prosecutors said Potter abused his authority as an officer and his actions caused greater than normal danger to others.
Nothing in the court filing indicates that they officially withdrew that argument, but the document filed Tuesday indicates that they now believe the alleged sentence is appropriate.
Defense attorneys, asking for a lighter sentence, argued that Wright was the assailant and would be alive if he had obeyed orders.
In their probation-only application, Potter’s attorneys said she had no priors, was remorseful, had had an exemplary career, and had the support of family and friends. They also said her risk of committing the same crime again was low because she was no longer a police officer, and they said she would do well on probation.
Prosecutors disagreed with the defense’s reasoning. In Tuesday’s papers, Frank wrote that to sentence Potter to probation alone, the judge would have to find that probation would serve the interests of society, not Potter’s, and that the defense had to establish that. But Frank also said there could be benefits to probation. Among them, Potter could speak to law enforcement groups or lawmakers about the dangers of mistaking a handgun for a Taser.
Frank said she could also talk to manufacturers about design changes to avoid confusion. And, he said, she could own up to her failure and try to help the community heal to “honor the memory of Daunte Wright.”
“No amount of jail time can bring Daunte Wright back to life. A jail term is just a number, and that number cannot undo this tragedy or bring Daunte Wright back to his family,” Frank wrote. Community healing and restoration is also valuable.”
He wrote that if the court finds jail is not warranted, Potter should get 10 years probation and be required to spend a year in jail, talk to law enforcement about the dangers of mixing up weapons and to tell Wright’s family about their loss. if they want her to.
Frank also disagreed with the defense’s arguments that Potter should receive a sentence below the guideline range.
If the court finds Potter’s case less serious than the typical case of first-degree manslaughter, he wrote, the court should hand down a sentence of between four and just over seven years, the presumptive sentences for second degree and first degree manslaughter.
“To impose anything less would disregard the death of Daunte Wright and the jury’s finding that the defendant Potter committed first degree manslaughter,” Frank wrote.
In Minnesota, it is assumed that convicts who behave well will serve two-thirds of their sentence in prison and the rest on supervised release, commonly known as parole. This means that if Potter receives an alleged sentence of around seven years, she will serve around four years and nine months behind bars, with the rest on parole.
Potter has been in Shakopee Women’s Prison since the guilty verdict.
Find full AP coverage of the Daunte Wright case: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright