Illinois’ new attorney general, who has vowed to reform the state’s criminal justice system, challenged the light sentence that former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke received in January for killing Laquan McDonald.
Attorney General Kwame Raoul filed a petition on Monday that asks the Illinois Supreme Court to take a close look at Van Dyke’s sentence for his second-degree murder conviction in the killing of the African-American teenager in October 2014, the New York Times reported.
“This is a question of whether the law was followed and whether a sentence was rendered on the appropriate charges,” said Raoul, who is Black, at a news conference, adding, “That is not a political question. That is a question of law.”
A jury found the white ex-officer guilty in October 2018 of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery for each bullet he fired into Laquan’s body. In January, a judge sentenced him to just six years and nine months behind bars. That means Van Dyke could be released from prison after serving a little more than three years of his sentence. The prosecutor asked the judge to issue a sentence of at least 18 years in prison.
Raoul, who was sworn in as attorney general in January, is a Chicago native of Haitian heritage. He began his legal career as a prosecutor in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. Raoul served as a state senator from 2004 to 2018. Among his assignments in the Senate, he was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee and vice chair of the Sentencing Policy Advisory Commission. Raoul said he has dedicated himself to working toward criminal justice reform in Illinois.
“As attorney general I will continue the work I began in the General Assembly on criminal justice reform. I will use the office’s bully pulpit and my role as an advocate to urge passage of common sense provisions related to sentencing, probation and parole, bail and bond, juvenile justice, expungement and rehabilitation programs,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times as an attorney general candidate. “ I will allocate crime victims’ assistance funding toward communities most affected by violence and advocate for appropriately focusing the resources of the corrections and justice systems.”
One of the legal disputes in Van Dyke’s case is whether he should be sentenced for the 16 counts of aggravated battery—for each of the 16 shots he fired—which could result in a much longer prison sentence. The judge in the case decided only to sentence Van Dyke on the second-degree murder charge.