CHICAGO (CBS)—Before Judge Vincent Gaughan handed down a six-and-a-half-year prison sentence to former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for killing Laquan McDonald, he acknowledged the sentence wouldn’t sit well with either side.
“I realized that my decision will not make everyone 100 percent happy,” Gaughan said to a packed courtroom.
Van Dyke was sentenced to 81 months for second degree murder—a little more than six and a half years.
CBS 2 legal analyst Irv Miller said that with time served, Van Dyke will likely serve a little more than three years.
Van Dyke showed no reaction after hearing his sentence.
His wife quietly absorbed its meaning.
Activists immediately called the sentence a travesty.
“Today we got something we didn’t expect to see,” activist William Calloway said. “81 months in the Illinois Department of Corrections– that’s a slap in the face to us and a slap on the wrist to him.”
Van Dyke’s sentencing came more than eight hours into his often-emotional hearing.
More than a dozen people gave statements for the prosecution; including several men who testified they were victimized by Van Dyke during routine or unwarranted traffic stops.
The defense’s testimony came from former officers and family members–including his wife Tiffany—who described Van Dyke as a wonderful father and said there’s no hatred in her husband.
“He is my other half. He’s my heart. My husband is a kind and gentle man. He would give you the shirt off his back,” she said.
At the end of the hearing, Van Dyke read from a prepared statement, saying he prays daily for McDonald’s soul.
Prosecutor Joseph McMahon had asked the judge for 18 to 20 years.
“This is a significant sentence,” McMahon said. “I and this team are satisfied, we achieved our goal in holding Van Dyke accountable for his actions the night that he shot and killed Laquan McDonald.
Van Dyke’s family said nothing and left the courthouse arm in arm, surrounded by police officers and shouts for justice.
Van Dyke’s attorney Dan Herbert says the father of two is relieved.
“He’s certainly not happy about going to jail, he’s certainly not happy missing his family, but he’s happy about the prospect of life ahead of him, and that, to me, was one of the greatest feelings.”