Peter Liang, the former NYPD officer who was convicted of killing Akai Gurley in East New York’s Pink Houses, was sentenced today to five years probation and 800 hours of community service for the shooting. A judge reduced Gurley’s charges just before sentencing him, throwing out his manslaughter conviction and replacing it with criminally negligent homicide and official misconduct.
Even if Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun hadn’t reduced Liang’s charges, the ex-cop still wouldn’t be heading to jail. Compared to Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson’s sentencing recommendation, the change saved Liang six months of house arrest, but added three hundred community service hours to his term. Still, Chun’s decision to reduce charges right before sentencing is a noteworthy move. One veteran reporter said she’d never once seen it happen in her more than 40 years covering New York City courts.
In 2014, Liang was conducting a patrol in a darkened stairwell of East New York’s Pink Houses, the housing project where Gurley lived. Gurley, 28, was ascending the same stairwell with his girlfriend. He was unarmed. Liang, a rookie cop, said in court that he was frightened by a noise in the stairwell and discharged his gun accidentally. The bullet ricocheted off of a wall and struck Gurley, killing him.
When Thompson made his recommendation for no jail time last month, Gurley’s family protested the decision. “We are outraged at District Attorney Thompson’s inadequate sentencing recommendation. Officer Liang was convicted of manslaughter and should serve time in prison for his crime,” they said in a statement.
“There is no evidence ... that [Liang] intended to kill or injure Akai Gurley,” Thompson said in a statement at the time of the sentencing recommendation. “When Mr. Liang went into that building that night, he did so as part of his job and to keep the people of Brooklyn and our city safe.”