CHICAGO – Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Special Prosecutor Joe McMahon are challenging Jason Van Dyke’s prison sentence.
Raoul said he is specifically challenging Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan’s decision to sentence Van Dyke for second-degree murder, not aggravated battery, reported the Chicago Sun-Times.
The challenge has been made in a petition for a writ of mandamus filed with the state Supreme Court. The filing with the Supreme Court insists Van Dyke should have been sentenced not for second-degree murder but “on all sixteen aggravated battery convictions,” thus resulting in a stiffer sentence.
Raoul believes the trial judge failed to follow the law.
Moreover, McMahon said the defense in the case has filed a notice of appeal.
The special prosecutor said he remains content with Van Dyke’s sentence, but wants to make sure it is lawful.
McMahon said he’s continued to be in touch with Laquan McDonald’s family, and he believes they are supportive of this move.
However, McMahon said the process has been difficult for Laquan McDonald’s mother. “I think she would like the process to be over.”
Raoul denied politics were involved. “Nonsense,” he replied when asked about the possibility. “This is a question of law.”
Van Dyke’s appeals lawyer said the issues raised by Raoul and McMahon “were appropriately decided by the trial judge after reading the briefs filed by both parties.”
“By requesting mandamus, they seek to turn the Illinois Supreme Court from a deliberative body into a political battleground,” lawyers Darren O’Brien and Jennifer Blagg said in a written statement.
“The filing also opens up a Pandora’s box of legal issues that, in the long term, could result in grossly excessive, unjust sentences for defendants that follow in the wake of this request.
“The Attorney General’s and Special Prosecutor’s filing today leaves Mr. Van Dyke with no choice but to appeal his conviction, prolonging this tragic case for both his family and the McDonald family.”
It’s been less than a month since Gaughan handed down Van Dyke’s six-year, nine-month prison sentence. His decision stunned activists, who expected a stiffer punishment after a jury last year found Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery.
If the sentence stands, Van Dyke would likely serve a little more than three years in prison after the on duty shooting of Laquan McDonald in October 2014.
That’s because Gaughan sentenced Van Dyke only on the second-degree murder charge, which means he must serve about half the sentence under good-time provisions. Had he been sentenced on the aggravated battery charges, he would have had to serve at least 85 percent of that time.
After the sentencing Jan. 18 at the George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse, McMahon said the judge’s decision held Van Dyke accountable for McDonald’s murder but balanced that against Van Dyke’s years of service as a police officer.
Legal experts pointed to Gaughan’s decision to sentence Van Dyke solely on the second-degree murder charge. Sentencing offenders for the most serious charge they face, and not on lesser charges, is standard. But case law clearly lays out that aggravated battery is the more serious count, some experts have said, according to the Sun-Times report.