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'Rare' Move: Ex-Cop Who Killed Walter Scott Faces Civil Rights Charges

Michael Slager indicted on federal charges
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2016 1:22 PM CDT

(Newser) – The former North Charleston police officer charged with murdering unarmed motorist Walter Scott was indicted by a federal grand jury this week on civil rights charges. The Post and Courier calls it "a rare measure in police shootings" that could offer another route to a conviction for Michael Slager. Slager was charged with murder by the state of South Carolina but has been free on bail since January; he will be allowed to remain out of jail for now, while the federal charges are pending, the AP reports. "This is history," says an attorney for the family of Scott, who was shown on video to be running away from Slager when he was shot five times from behind in April 2015. "It could be a turning point in history that the federal government is no longer going to sit on the sidelines. They’re going to make police officers face federal justice."

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Slager was indicted on charges of depriving Scott's civil rights when he used unreasonable force while acting as a public official; he had originally pulled Scott over for a broken tail light when Scott allegedly got out of the car and fled. He was also indicted on charges of misleading investigators (he told them Scott was approaching him with a Taser) and using a firearm in a violent crime. Slager, 34, can be put on trial in both state and federal courts over the same incident because the jurisdictions are considered sovereign, the Post and Courier explains. Because Scott died, Slager could be facing life in prison on the civil rights charge. The obstruction of justice charge has a 20-year maximum sentence and the firearms charge has a 10-year maximum sentence. On the state charge of murder, which carries up to a maximum of life in prison, Slager will go on trial Oct. 31. (Read more Michael Slager stories.)

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