LIVE BLOG: Jason Van Dyke to Be Sentenced Friday

on Jan18

18 January 2019 | 5:21 pm

Note: You can watch the full sentencing hearing above beginning at 9 a.m.

Former Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke is scheduled to be sentenced Friday, more than three months after he was convicted in the shooting death of Laquan McDonald.

Van Dyke, who was convicted of second-degree murder and aggravated battery in a trial last year, faces anywhere from probation to more than 96 years in prison as both sides state their positions in a court filing this week.

His defense team has argued the case falls under a “one crime, one act” doctrine, which states that he can only be sentenced for one charge since they each fall under the same criminal act.

Jason Van Dyke to Be Sentenced Friday

[CHI] Jason Van Dyke to Be Sentenced Friday

They requested the judge only sentence Van Dyke for second-degree murder, which could pave a way for the minimum sentence of probation.

The prosecution has argued the “one crime, one act” doctrine would require the judge to sentence Van Dyke on the more serious criminal act, which they say is aggravated battery. This charge does not have probation as an option.

In their court filing, defense attorneys requested that if the judge sentences Van Dyke for second-degree murder, he give the ex-officer probation. Should the judge sentence Van Dyke on charges of aggravated battery, the defense asked for the “minimum statutory term of imprisonment required,” which would mean six years.

Prosecutors are seeking a six-year sentence for each of the 16 counts of aggravated battery Van Dyke was convicted of in October. That marks a total of 96 years.

However, the prosecution noted that in court Van Dyke’s defense presented evidence that only two of the 16 shots fired were fatal. Should the judge decide to sentence Van Dyke on only those charges, they have asked for six years for each “triggering offense” and an additional six years for the remaining 14 counts. That would make for a minimum sentence of 18 years.

Van Dyke is set to be sentenced by Judge Vincent Gaughan Friday following a years-long saga in the case.

Van Dyke Faces Several Possibilities at Sentencing Hearing

Van Dyke Faces Several Possibilities at Sentencing Hearing

Van Dyke was convicted on Oct. 5 of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery in the fatal shooting of McDonald. The long-awaited verdict came almost exactly four years after Van Dyke shot 17-year-old McDonald 16 times on the city’s Southwest Side.

Dashcam video showing the shooting shook the city and the nation, sparking massive protests and calls for justice.

Follow along live from the courtroom above and below. 

9:11 a.m.: Court is now in session for the Jason Van Dyke hearing.

9:13 a.m.: Judge Gaughan says he will hear various witnesses, but some have filed objections to being broadcast via audio or video. Then he will hear legal arguments.

9:15 a..m: After announcing the schedule for the day, Judge Vincent Gaughan has called a brief recess to discuss whether some witnesses should appear on camera. He says some have expressed objections to that.

Van Dyke Appears in Court for Latest Hearing

[CHI] Van Dyke Appears in Court for Latest Hearing

9:20 a.m.: After hearing from witnesses, Judge Gaughan says he plans to hear arguments over which of Van Dyke’s two convictions — one for second degree murder and one for aggravated battery — is the more consequential conviction, meriting priority in today’s sentencing.

9:21 a.m.: The prosecution has argued the “one crime, one act” doctrine would require the judge to sentence Van Dyke on the more serious criminal act, which they say is aggravated battery. This charge does not have probation as an option, where the conviction of second-degree murder does.

9:24 a.m.: Judge Gaughan may well hear this morning from Jason Van Dyke’s wife, Tiffany. In a court document filed this past Monday, Tiffany Van Dyke — as well as the couple’s children — wrote letters, appealing for leniency in Van Dyke’s sentencing.

Watch Judge Give Jason Van Dyke Sentencing Date

[CHI] Watch Judge Give Jason Van Dyke Sentencing Date

“My family has suffered more than I can even put into words,” Tiffany Van Dyke wrote to the judge in the document filed Monday. “My daughters had their father ripped away from them to possibly ever be able to hold each other again. My children do not sleep or eat right.”

Tiffany Van Dyke added in her letter to the judge: “Please find it in your heart to consider the punishment already endured by him that will continue for the rest of his life.” 

In her letter filed Monday, Jason Van Dyke’s wife also told Judge Gaughan: “There was no malice, ill intent, or hatred on that fateful night when my husband was faced with the split second decision. He believed he was making the right choice that night.”

Van Dyke Returns to Court for First Time Since Conviction

[CHI] Van Dyke Returns to Court for First Time Since Conviction

9:32 a.m.: Court remains in recess as Judge Vincent Gaughan decides whether some witnesses (testifying in Jason Van Dyke’s sentencing phase, after his conviction in the killing of Laquan McDonald) can speak without their testimony being broadcast on the audio or video courtroom feed.

9:38 a.m.: Technically, former police officer Jason Van Dyke faces a broad set of extremes in today’s sentencing: More than 96 years in prison at one extreme; and straight probation — with no jail time at all — at the other. Because Van Dyke’s defense maintains that the case falls under a “one crime, one act” doctrine, they argue that he can only be sentenced for one charge, since they each fall under the same criminal act.

9:49 a.m.: As the court recess continues in this morning’s Van Dyke sentencing, even the “overflow room” — where spectators and reporters watch the proceedings on a large screen — is filling up, with approximately 60 people now waiting for court to reconvene.

Van Dyke Moved from Cook County Jail

Van Dyke Moved from Cook County Jail

9:50 a.m.: Spectators in the overflow room include a variety of reporters and spectators, and even some small children.

9:53 a.m.: Many “overflow” spectators and reporters are expressing some surprise that this morning’s recess — taken as the judge hears arguments as to whether some witnesses should be allowed to testify without cameras — is taking so long.

9:55 a.m.: Van Dyke appeared briefly in court this morning, before the current recess. He wore a yellow jumpsuit — though some reporters in the overflow insist it is orange instead. He also now has a beard.

Jurors on Van Dyke Verdict: ‘We Came Here for Right and Wrong’

[CHI] Jurors on Van Dyke Verdict: 'We Came Here for Right and Wrong'

10 a.m.: Today’s proceedings — once they are back underway — will comprise of three parts: Witness testimony; then an argument over which of Van Dyke’s two convictions (second-degree murder versus aggravated battery) should be considered as the priority, then, third, arguments over aggravation and mitigation factors. “Aggravation” factors would push towards a more severe sentence; “mitigation” factors would possibly allow a lighter sentence.

10:12 a.m.: Court is now back in session.

10:13 a.m.: Judge Gaughan is addressing the crowd, telling the audience that he is taking video of the entire audience in case of a disruption — so that he can have a video record of who is there.

McDonald’s Family Gathers to Discuss Van Dyke Verdict

[CHI] McDonald's Family Gathers to Discuss Van Dyke Verdict

10:13 a..m: “Three areas to look at when determining the sentence in this case,” the prosecutor tells Judge Gaughan. First, the indictment, which reflects 16 separate counts of aggravated battery….

“…16 separate and distinct acts committed by the defendant,” in the killing of Laquan McDonald, committed by former officer Jason Van Dyke, with each and every of the 16 wounds causing harm.

10:16 a.m.: “At first blush to someone who does not .. work in the system,” second degree murder may seem like the more serious offense. But, in fact, aggravated battery is considered more serious in Illinois, says the Van Dyke prosecutor.

Van Dyke Behind Bars Following Friday’s Verdict

Van Dyke Behind Bars Following Friday's Verdict

10:19 a.m.: Special prosecutor Joseph McMahon tells Judge Vincent Gaughan that the prosecution has consistently argued that Jason Van Dyke’s firing of 16 shots — which lead to his aggravated battery conviction — is the more serious conviction and must be the priority for sentencing.

10:20 a.m.: “[For] each count of aggravated battery with a firearm, … the sentences must run consecutive,” the prosecutor tells the judge in the sentencing of Jason Van Dyke. In other words, they must be served one after another — not all at the same time.

10:22 a.m.: That’s why Jason Van Dyke could receive as many as 96 years in prison, if given the maximum sentence for each of the 16 shots he fired into Laquan McDonald. Most experts do not expect that to be the final sentence, however.

10:24 a.m.: As expected, the special prosecutor says that the minimum sentence for Jason Van Dyke should be 18 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections — six years for each of two fatal shots, plus another six years for the other 14 shots.

10:24 a.m.: “Had the jury returned a verdict of first-degree murder,” the minimum sentence would have been less than half the 96 years that could be levied on the 16 counts of aggravated battery, the prosecutor points out.

10:26 a.m.: Special prosecutor Joseph McMahon says “there is sufficient evidence for you to impose sentence on both second degree murder and the aggravated battery with the firearm.”

10:26 a.m.: However, McMahon argues, there is ample reason for the judge to impose a concurrent (not consecutive) sentence on second-degree murder, in addition to the sentence on aggravated battery.

10:27 a.m.: Now one of Van Dyke’s defense attorneys is speaking to the judge.

10:31 a.m.: Van Dyke attorney Darren O’Brien also says the 16 shots, by definition, “merge into” the second-degree murder conviction, and that court precedent in Illinois says you can’t charge someone “in a way that eliminates second degree murder.” He says that “annuls” the murder charge.

10:34 a.m.: One of former police officer Jason Van Dyke’s defense counsels, Darren O’Brien, is arguing to Judge Joseph McMahon that if the judge decides to consider aggravated battery, he should limit that consideration to just a few of the 16 shots fired into Laquan McDonald.

“That is why [Van Dyke} must be sentenced to only one count” of aggravated battery, says defense attorney Darren O’Brien.

10:36 a.m.: Van Dyke’s defense agrees with special prosecutor that penalty must be proportionate to the determination of second-degree murder. Since first-degree murder sentencing would be about half the sentence for all 16 convictions of aggravated battery, the sentence needs to be adjusted.

10:37 a.m.: Court is now in recess. Meanwhile, in the overflow room, the debate goes on about how to most accurately describe the color of Jason Van Dyke’s prison jumpsuit. Yellow, orange, burnt orange, and peach have all been suggested as the most appropriate descriptions for news reports.

10:45 a.m.: It’s believe that — after this current recess — Judge Vincent Gaughan will reconvene court to here the “aggravation/mitigation” portion of today’s sentencing hearing — that is, what factors might argue for a more severe sentence, versus what factors might lessen the sentence.

10:46 a.m.: It is expected that former police officer Jason Van Dyke’s family members may testify as part of this aggravation/mitigation portion of today’s hearing. What’s not known is whether Judge Vincent Gaughan may opt to turn off the courtroom feed, during that portion of the hearing.

10:50 a.m.: Most reporters in the Van Dyke court’s “overflow room” expect the former officer’s wife — and possibly even one or more of his children — to testify today in court, in an effort to get Van Dyke’s overall sentence reduced. Their appeals would be considered “mitigating” factors.

10:52 a.m.: What’s not yet entirely clear, however, is what “aggravating” factors might be presented by the prosecution, in any attempt to keep Jason Van Dyke’s sentencing more severe.

11 a.m.: Court is back in session now.

11:01 a.m.: Jason Van Dyke is being led to the defense desk in the courtroom, and is now seated there. Judge Vincent Gaughan is now considering the “aggravation” phase of sentencing.

11:03 a.m.: Special prosecutor Joseph McMahon begins to present his case for “aggravating” factors that would add to Jason Van Dyke’s sentence.

11:04 a.m.: Judge Gaughan mentions that any witness who will be testifying, in this phase of the sentencing hearing, are out of the courtroom.

11:05 a.m.: Prosecutors call to the stand Vidale Joy to the stand. He describes himself as a “published author and poet.”

11:06 a.m.: Prosecution witness Joy says he pulled his car out from gas station at Cermak and Ogden in Chicago one night when he was “abruptly pulled over by several squad cars.” Joy said he placed his hands on the steering wheel of his car (when he was pulled over) and then was approached by several officers, including Jason Van Dyke. “He approached my car with his gun drawn,” Joy testifies, and identifies Jason Van Dyke in the courtroom.

11:09 a.m.: Joy says the night he was pulled over by Chicago police, officer Van Dyke spoke to him with obscenities and racial slurs, and “he had his gun drawn on me.” “He put the gun to my temple,” Joy tells the court.

11:10 a.m.: Joy says Van Dyke was “infuriated” and “out his mind” when he confronted Joy outside a gas station. Joy said he complied with everything Van Dyke asked him to do, and says he asked Van Dyke if he could contact his attorney.

11:10 a.m.: “He never gave me any reasons for detaining me,” Joy says about former officer Jason Van Dyke, who allegedly stopped his car outside a gas station. “I have anxiety to the degree that any time a police officer gets behind me … I become nervous to the point that I just shut down.”

11:11 a.m.: Joy is now under cross-examination by Van Dyke’s defense attorneys.

11:11 a.m.: Joy tells Van Dyke defense attorneys that he was contacted approximately 40 days ago, to come into court today to testify about “aggravating” factors in Jason Van Dyke’s sentencing. “When I first filed my grievance” about his encounter with Van Dyke, “it was abruptly dismissed.”

11:13 a.m.: Van Dyke attorneys try to challenge Joy’s memory of the night that he encountered Jason Van Dyke on Aug. 10, 2005, when, he says, Van Dyke uttered obscenities and racial slurs to him during a traffic stop. Van Dyke’s attorneys try to get Joy to say that his memory would have been better in 2005, concerning his encounter with Van Dyke, than it would be today.

11:14 a.m.: Joy admits that he did not have the proper tags on his vehicle, when he was pulled over in 2005 by former police officer Jason Van Dyke and other officers. However, his traffic citation was later dismissed.

11:15 a.m.: Van Dyke’s attorneys ask Joy about the “several squad cars” that, he says, surrounded him that night in 2005. “It didn’t look like they were pulling you over for a traffic violation, right?” “They thought you were involved in something serious, right?”



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