MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The former suburban Minneapolis police officer who said she confused her handgun for her Taser when she killed Daunte WrightWill be sentenced February following a jury convicted her ThursdayTwo counts of manslaughter.
This is the most serious accusation against Kim Potter — first-degree manslaughter — carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. Here’s how her sentencing could play out:
These are the Charges
A jury found Potter guilty after nearly 27 hours of deliberation and four days of trial. first-degree manslaughter and second-degree manslaughter Wright was an African-American motorist who was shot and killed on April 11. For first-degree manslaughter, prosecutors had to prove Potter caused Wright’s death while recklessly handling a firearm in a way that death or great bodily harm to any person was reasonably foreseeable.
The second-degree manslaughter charge required prosecutors to prove Potter caused his death “by her culpable negligence,” meaning that Potter “caused an unreasonable risk and consciously took a chance of causing death or great bodily harm” to Wright.
What sentence is possible?
Minnesota laws stipulate that Potter will be sentenced to the worst possible charge, first-degree murder. That’s because both of the charges against her stem from one act, with one victim.
Maximum sentence for this charge is 15 years. However, the state sentencing guidelines recommend a lesser sentence. The guidelines are for someone without a criminal record, such as Potter. They range between just over six years and about 8 1/2 year, while the presumptive sentence is slightly more than seven years.
Prosecutors have said they’d seek a sentence above the guideline range, while the defense said they would seek no prison time. In order for Judge Regina Chu to issue a sentence that’s outside the guideline range, she would first have to find either mitigating or aggravating factors. Each side is expected to submit written arguments.
Possible Aggravating Factors
Prosecutors say aggravating factors in Potter’s case include that she caused a greater-than-normal danger to the safety of other people when she fired into the car, including danger to her fellow officers, to Wright’s passenger and to the couple whose car was struck by Wright’s after the shooting.
Wright’s passenger, Alayna Albrecht-Payton, told the court she still suffers from the effects of the broken jaw she sustained in the crash after the shooting. And Denise Lundgren Wells, whose father was in the car that Wright’s struck, said her father had health issuesBefore the crash but they increased their speed after. He’s now in his 80s and in hospice care.
Prosecutors allege that Potter also misused her authority as an officer in police.
Possible Mitigating Factors
Defense attorney Paul Engh said the defense would be seeking a “dispositional departure” from sentencing guidelines.
Under state statutes, a mitigated dispositional departure occurs when guidelines recommend a prison sentence, but a judge allows the sentence to be “stayed” — meaning the defendant doesn’t go to prison. Marsh Halberg of Minneapolis, an attorney not involved in the case, stated that instead, the defendant will be placed on probation or home monitoring and possibly sent to jail. If conditions are not met, a defendant will be sent to jail.
In arguing that Potter should remain free on bail until she is sentenced, Engh said: “She is amenable to probation. It is clear that she regrets the incident and feels remorseful. She’s not a danger to the public whatsoever. She’s made all her court appearances.” Chu was unmoved, and Potter was taken into custody after the verdicts were read.
Halberg noted that Potter is innocent and has no criminal records. The defense can also make the argument that as a police officer, Potter’s confinement would likely be harsher than most because of the need to keep her safe. The former Minneapolis police officer convicted in George Floyd’s death, Derek ChauvinFor that reason, he was in isolation confinement.
What will Chu do?
Minnesota’s sentencing guidelines were created to establish consistent sentences that don’t consider factors such as race or gender.
Chu will take into account both the arguments of each side and victim impact statements when deciding on a sentence. Pre-sentence investigations of Potter have been also requested by her. And Potter can make a statement at her sentencing hearing — a time when judges are typically looking to see if a person takes responsibility for the crime or shows remorse.
Halberg said it’s unlikely Chu would sentence Potter below the guideline range, saying: “We live in such a politicized climate now for decisions.” He predicted Chu would go above what guidelines suggest, or sentence her to the top range.
“If you stay within the box as far as the sentences being reasonable, it’s a pretty hard thing to argue on appeal,” he said.
Potter’s Life Expectancy
No matter what sentence Potter gets, in Minnesota it’s presumed that a defendant with good behavior will serve two-thirds of their penalty in prison and the rest on supervised release, commonly known as parole.
This means that Potter would spend approximately four years behind bars and nine months in prison if she is given the seven-year sentence. The rest of her time could be on supervised release. She could go back to jail if she breaches the terms of her parole after she is released on supervised release. She could spend 10 years in prison if she is sentenced to the maximum of 15 years.
Potter was sent to the state women’s prison in Shakopee after the jury returned its verdicts. Nicholas Kimball of the state Department of Corrections spoke out, saying that sometimes, particularly in high-profile cases, individuals are sent directly to the prison while they await their sentence.
Chauvin went through the exact same process. He went directly to the state’s maximum security prison as he awaited sentencing for murder. He was ultimately sentenced to 22 1/2 years — above the guideline range — after a judge found aggravating factors in Floyd’s death.
Find the AP’s full coverage of the Daunte Wright case: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-daunte-wright