Three Atlanta cops just got off easy, with sentences from five to 10 years in prison, and convictions in state and federal courts.
What did they do? Well, let me tell it the way I heard it:
First, we heard that there was a drug warrant service that went bad, resulting in a 92 year old lady being killed by the police as she shot at them.
And, not knowing all of the facts, I suggested* that we withhold judgement. It was too early, I said, to know how it went down. The variations and discrepancies in the stories were to be ironed out, and probably were the result of bad reporting.
But right from the start, some nagging issues about procedure were coming out. The officers serving the warrant were in plain clothes. Forced entry was very early, if not no-knock. And those discrepancies-- was it no-knock, or not? Had the woman fired after they made entry, after the knock and announce, as they stood on the porch, or as the officers walked up? Which was it? There was supposed to be a young man there selling crack, but only some marijuana was found, and no man.
Then we started hearing about the possibility that the probable cause had been bolstered by creative writing.
Then we heard that in fact the probable cause affidavit was just fiction.
And the marijuana? Planted.
And the after-action reports? Fabrications.
And the plan to go in based on what they had or didn't have? Criminal conspiracy.
So, at night, criminals with guns attacked Kathryn Johnston's home. She responded as any frightened citizen who is in charge of her own destiny might; she fought back. At 92 years of age, she could hardly be expected to fight hand-to-hand with armed invaders, and she used a gun of her own.
She wounded three men before they gunned her down, killing her.
So when I say that they got off lucky, I mean it.
All three men pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to violate civil rights resulting in death. Smith and Junnier also pleaded guilty to state charges of voluntary manslaughter and making false statements, and Smith admitted to planting bags of marijuana in Johnston's home after her death.
U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes ordered all three men to serve three years of supervised release after their prison terms, and to split Johnston's funeral costs, which totaled $8,180, authorities said.
Translation: they were offered the opportunity to avoid a felony murder rap.
Tesler's state conviction was reversed on appeal, but he pleaded guilty to the federal charge. Junnier and Smith face sentencing March 5 on state charges including voluntary manslaughter, but according to their plea agreement, their sentence will be served at the same time as the federal sentence, authorities said.
We should have gotten more time out of them. 5-10 with concurrent sentencing is not enough for what these men --police officers sworn to uphold the law-- did.
That's not what I got into policing to do.
Friends with badges, hear me: we had better damned well police ourselves. If a person in your ranks is breaking the law, then he is not a police officer-- he is a criminal with a badge. And we put criminals in prison.
(Tip of the hat to Tamara. )
*In comments. It got pretty heated with some.