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  • Judy Scott with a photo of her son Walter during a news conference after former police officer Michael Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

    Judy Scott with a photo of her son Walter during a news conference after former police officer Michael Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison. | Photo: Reuters

The judge ultimately ruled Thursday that former U.S. police officer Michael Slager had acted with malice and "willful intent to provide false testimony."

A former police officer in the United States has been sentenced to 20 years for second-degree murder after fatally shooting an unarmed African-American motorist in the back.

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Michael Slager, a white officer in South Carolina, was filmed shooting 50-year-old Walter Scott as he fled after Slager stopped him for having a broken brake light in April 2015.

"I forgive you," the victim’s mother told 36-year-old Slager in court, as she spoke about how she had been affected by her son’s death.

The deadly shooting was recorded on a mobile-phone camera by bystander Feidin Santana, evidence without which the officer probably would have been fired but never tried, experts have said.

Judge David Norton told the court that Slager had "lived a spotless life" before the shooting. "Regardless, this is a tragedy that shouldn't have happened," he said.

Slager’s defense team had argued in court that the officer believed Scott had seized his police-issue stun gun during the scuffle, but the judge ultimately ruled Thursday that Slager had acted with malice and "willful intent to provide false testimony," the BBC reports.

Slager told the court: "I wish this never would have happened. I wish I could go back and change events, but I can't, and I am very sorry for that."

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Scott, who was wanted for unpaid child support, was filmed by a police dashcam breaking free from Slager's grasp and running directly away from him.

The footage show Slager drawing his pistol and firing from about 4.5 metres away, hitting Scott in the back five times.

Scott's brother, Anthony, said it had taken him a long time to overcome his depression and forgive Slager. "I'm not angry at you, Michael," he said in court. "I pray for you."

The case ended in a mistrial in 2016. Rather than face another jury, Slager plead guilty in May to a federal charge of violating the victim's civil rights.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement: "Officers who violate anyone's rights also violate their oaths of honour, and they tarnish the names of the vast majority of officers, who do incredible work."

The City of North Charleston paid a $6.5m settlement to the Scotts.


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