(CN) – Former South Carolina police officer Michael Slager pleaded guilty Tuesday to violating the civil rights of an unarmed black motorist he shot dead after the man ran from an April 2015 traffic stop.
Slager, who is white, was slated to face a federal trial next week on violating the civil rights of Walter Scott during an incident that was captured on a cellphone video by a passerby. The officer had also faced a state murder charge in connection to 2015 incident, but his trial ended in a hung jury last fall.
The 12-page plea agreement Slager reached Tuesday puts an end to South Carolina’s plans to retry the murder charge this summer.
Slager, 35, has agreed to say he violated Section 242 of Title 18, depriving Walter Scott’s rights under the color of law, and willfully using “deadly force even though it was objectively unreasonable under the circumstances.”
“The defendant acknowledges that during the time he used deadly force, he knew that the use of deadly force was unnecessary and excessive, and therefore unreasonable under the circumstances,” the plea says.
U.S. District Judge David Norton has been presiding in recent days over pretrial hearings during which potential jury instructions were discussed as well as the validity and admissibility of expert testimony.
Slager has always maintained that he shot Scott only after the 50-year-old got hold of his Taser. He says this altercation happened before the passerby happened on the scene and started recording.
Slager shot at Scott eight times, hitting the fleeing man five times in the back.
“We hope that Michael’s acceptance of responsibility will help the Scott family as they continue to grieve their loss,” Slager’s attorney, Andy Savage of Charleston, said in an email Tuesday.
Though the plea carries a possible life sentence for Slager, along with a $250,000 fine, prosecutors have said they will recommend something less than the maximum sentence. No sentencing date has been set.
Scott’s family received a $6.5 million settlement from the city of North Charleston in October 2015.