After his murder conviction was overturned, a former Minneapolis police officer was sentenced to 57 months for a lesser offense.
In the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk-Damond in July 2017, Mohamed Noor was convicted of third degree murder and manslaughter. Justine Ruszczyk-Damond was a 40-year old yoga teacher and dual U.S-Australian citizen. Although he was initially sentenced to 12 and 1/2 years for the murder charge, the Supreme Court overturned Noor’s conviction and ordered him to be sent back to prison for manslaughter.
Judge Kathryn Quaintance announced the maximum sentence allowed by the state’s sentencing guidelines. These guidelines allow for sentences ranging from 41 to 57 month. Noor wanted the shortest sentence.
Minnesota’s law allows defendants who are good citizens to serve two-thirds their sentence in prison and the remainder on supervised release.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Below is the original story by AP.
MINNEAPOLIS, (AP) — The Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed an unarmed woman in Minneapolis after she called 911 to report a possible rape occurring behind her home was sentenced to a lesser charge on Thursday. His murder conviction was overturned in a case which drew international attention.
In the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk-Damond in 2017, Mohamed Noor was convicted of third degree murder and manslaughter. Justine Ruszczyk-Damond was a 40-year old yoga teacher and dual U.S.-Australian citizen. He could be released on supervised release in a matter of months after his murder conviction was overturned.
The Minnesota Supreme Court overturned Noor’s murder conviction. It also overturned Noor’s sentence. They said that the third-degree murder statute didn’t apply to the case. The justices ruled that the charge could only be brought against a defendant if he or she shows “generalized indifference towards human life” and not when the conduct is directed toward a specific person like it was with Damond.
Experts believe that the decision will also throw out the conviction for third-degree murder against Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer in George Floyd’s death in 2020. However, this would not have any impact as Chauvin was also convicted on a second-degree murder charge in Floyd’s death. Chauvin was sentenced for 22 1/2 years.
Noor stated that he and his partner were slowing down in an alley when they heard a loud bang from their police SUV. He was afraid for their lives. Noor claimed that he saw a woman standing at his partner’s driver side window, raising her right arm and then firing a shot from his passenger seat to stop what was believed to be a threat.
He was sentenced for 12 1/2 years for the murder charge and spent most of his time in an out-of state facility. Noor will be sentencing for second-degree manslaughter. State guidelines call for a range between 41 and 57 months, as well as a presumptive sentence that is four years.
Tom Plunkett, his attorney, and Peter Wold, his representative, asked for 41 months. They cited Noor’s positive behavior behind bars as well as the harsh conditions he endured during long periods in solitary.
Plunkett claimed that the victim was a kind, giving person and that he has received a lot of attention during Thursday’s hearing. He said this to be “all true.” Plunkett however said that Noor has “similar goodness”. Plunkett said that Noor was always trying to help others and recounted Noor’s positive behavior in prison.
Amy Sweasy, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney, asked Quaintance for Noor’s longest sentence of 57 months. Because of Noor’s character, she said that the case was “worse than usual”. She stated that the court must impose the most severe sentence possible.
John Ruszczyk, Maryan Heffernan and Damond’s parents asked the judge for the longest sentence. Prosecutors read a statement in which they described Damond’s death as “utterly gratuitous” while stating that the Minnesota Supreme Court’s repeal of a “poorly drafted law” did not change the jury’s conviction that Noor had committed murder.
They said, “Our sorrow is eternal, our lives will always endure an emptyness.”
Don Damond, the victim’s fiancée, made his statement via Zoom. He began by praising the prosecutors for their “sound use of the law” while criticizing the state Supreme Court’s reversal. However, he stated that it did not alter the truth that was revealed during the trial.
Justine should still be alive. He stated that no amount of political justifications, embellishments, cover-ups, dishonesty, or politics can change this truth.
However, Don Damond spoke directly to Noor and said he forgives him. Justine would also have forgiven him for “your inability to manage your emotions that night.”
Noor, dressed in a suit and tie, and sporting a mask on his face, seemed impassive while the statements of the loved ones were read. Later, he spoke briefly to the court, saying that he was deeply grateful for Mr. Damond’s forgiveness. I will follow his advice and become a unifier. We are grateful.
Noor was fired shortly after being charged and has served over 29 months. Minnesota has two-thirds of its prison sentences for inmates who behave well. The remainder are sent to supervised release. Noor could be eligible for supervised freedom if he is granted the four-year presumptive sentence.
If Noor is sentenced by a judge to 41 months in prison, he may be eligible for supervised freedom — also known as parole — immediately. However, such cases often see defendants briefly returning to prison to discuss the logistics of parole.
Thursday’s hearing will allow Noor to make a statement. He was emotional at his 2019 original sentencing and expressed regret for his actions and apologized to Damond.
Damond’s family members arrived from Australia to participate in the 2019 trial. However, statements were expected to be read for them on Thursday.
The death of Damond angered Americans and Australians and led to the resignation by Minneapolis’ police chief. It led to the department changing its policy on body camera. Noor and his partner were not equipped with theirs when they investigated Damond’s 911 call.
Noor, a Somali American, is believed to have been the first Minnesota officer to be convicted for murder in an on-duty shooting. Activists, who have long demanded that officers be held accountable for the deadly force of force, applauded Noor’s murder conviction but were disappointed that the case involved a Black officer and a white victim. Some wondered if the case was treated in the same way as cases involving Black victims.
Minneapolis paid $20 million to Damond’s relatives just days after Noor was convicted. This settlement, which was believed to be the largest ever resulting from police violence in Minnesota, was reached within days. This was eclipsed by a $27million settlement that Minneapolis reached in Floyd’s murder, just as Chauvin was about to go on trial.