The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request by the state attorney general to resentence former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke in the murder of black teenager Laquan McDonald.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Special Prosecutor Joseph McMahon were seeking to increase Van Dyke’s sentence length. In February, they filed a petition challenging the legality of his 81-month prison sentence handed down on January 19 by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Vincent Gaughan.
Van Dyke, who is white, was convicted for the death of McDonald, 17, but was only sentenced “based on his conviction for second-degree murder and not the more serious charges of 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm,” a statement from the attorney general’s office says.
Raoul and McMahon challenged that decision in their petition.
The aggravated battery charges carried potentially more prison time. Each of the 16 counts would have carried a minimum sentence of six years in prison. When combined, Van Dyke could have faced up to 96 years in prison, a stiff penalty many protesters and activists were hoping for.
In their writ of mandamus, Raoul and McMahon asked the state’s high court to vacate Van Dyke’s second-degree murder sentence, authorities said. The petition asked to instead impose a sentence on each of the 16 counts of aggravated battery.
The officer’s defense team argued that the move was purely political, and said the judge had followed the law when he issued the sentence.
The shooting in 2014 sparked protests, a federal civil rights investigation and the eventual ouster of the police superintendent.
Van Dyke had argued he fired in self-defense after he said McDonald lunged at him with a knife. But a Chicago police dashcam video — which a judge ordered the city to release 13 months after the shooting — showed McDonald walking away from police, rather than charging at them. Van Dyke fired 16 shots in about 15 seconds.
The release of the video led to more protests and a national conversation about police use of deadly force.
Van Dyke has been in custody since his conviction in October.
By Brad Parks, CNN