By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
The judge presiding over Kim Potter’s manslaughter trial justified the former policewoman’s two-year sentence Friday by comparing the case to two other local police killings — one of them George Floyd’s.
The law permits a judge to use her discretion depending on the facts, Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu told the court.
Calling the case “highly unusual,” Chu said the circumstances in Potter’s case indicate her crime “is less onerous than typical.” Potter testified she meant to discharge her Taser, not her firearm when she killed Daunte Wright last year.
“This is not a cop found guilty of murder for using his knee to pin down a person for 9 ½ minutes as he gasped for air,” the judge said, referring to ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty in Floyd’s 2020 murder.
Chu then referenced Mohamed Noor, another former Minneapolis police officer. A jury found Noor guilty of manslaughter after he shot across the driver seat of his squad car in 2017, killing Justine Ruszczyk, who had called 911 to report a possible assault.
“This is not a cop found guilty of manslaughter for intentionally drawing his firearm and shooting across his partner and killing an unarmed woman who approached his (vehicle),” Chu said.
Noor was originally sentenced to 12.5 years in prison but was later resentenced to four years and nine months. Chauvin is serving a 22.5-year sentence. He awaits additional sentencing after pleading guilty in federal court to violating the civil rights of Floyd and, in a separate incident from 2017, a handcuffed 14-year-old.
Following Potter’s sentencing, Wright’s mother, Katie, expressed disappointment, saying, “Today, a White woman’s tears trumped justice.”
The 20-year-old’s father, Arbuey, feels cheated and hurt, he said, and it seems “nobody even cared enough.” He left the courthouse feeling like people were laughing at the family after Potter’s “slap on the wrist,” he said.
“Everyone was so tied up in her feelings, what’s going on with her,” the dad said, referring to Potter. “I feel like we was tricked.”
Chu explained her finding that Potter’s crime was less onerous than a typical manslaughter charge by explaining there’s no evidence indicating the ex-officer meant to draw her service weapon. Using her Taser would’ve been justified in the circumstances, the judge said.
The scene, Chu said, was “chaotic, tense and rapidly evolving,” and Potter had to make a “split-second judgment,” which was as a mitigating circumstance.
“The fact she never intended to draw her firearm makes this case less serious than other cases,” Chu said. “Unlike other manslaughter (in the first degree) cases, Officer Potter’s actions were not driven by personal animosity toward Daunte Wright. Instead, she was acting in the line of duty and effectuating a lawful arrest.”
Before sentencing Potter, she described the defendant as “a cop who made a tragic mistake.”
As Chauvin was standing trial for Floyd’s murder in April, demonstrations were widespread across the Minneapolis metro area, including in nearby Brooklyn Center.
Wright was pulled over in the suburb April 11 for an expired tag and illegal air freshener, police said. During the stop, Potter learned Wright had an outstanding warrant. As she tried to take him into custody, the young man attempted to drive off, police said.
Video shows Potter, a 26-year veteran, yelling, “Taser! Taser!” before shooting Wright.
“Holy sh*t! I just shot him,” she says, adding, “I grabbed the wrong f**king gun.”
Potter turned in her badge days later. While prosecutors painted Potter as reckless and negligent, defense attorneys argued she’d committed an honest mistake.
“Accidents can still be crimes if they occur because of recklessness or culpable negligence,” Assistant Minnesota Attorney General Erin Eldrige said in closing arguments.
More than 30 witnesses testified over eight days. Potter broke down on the stand.
“I was very distraught. I just shot somebody. I’m sorry it happened,” she said. “I’m so sorry.”
A jury in December found Potter guilty of two counts of manslaughter after deliberating about 27 hours.
™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.
CNN’s Dakin Andone, Claudia Dominguez and Brad Parks contributed to this report.