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State senator requests leniency for Liang

By AI HEPING and AMY HE in New York ( Updated: 2016-03-15 10:17

New York state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky on Monday called on Judge Danny Chun to issue a lenient sentence for Peter Liang, the former New York police officer convicted of manslaughter in the death of Akai Gurley.

In a letter to Chun, released by her office on Monday, Stavisky, a Democrat who represents Flushing,Queens, pointed to inadequate training and the partnering of two rookie officers on a so-called vertical patrol in a Brooklyn public housing project as contributing to the incident.

Liang, whose sentencing is scheduled for April 14, faces 15 years in prison, a sentence Stavisky said is too harsh, given the circumstances.

Liang and his partner were conducting the patrol on Nov 20, 2014, inside the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York. Liang opened a door into an unlighted stairwell and his gun went off. The bullet glanced off a wall and hit Gurley, 28, who was walking down the stairs with his girlfriend, and pierced his heart.

Stavisky said her thoughts and prayers are with Gurley's loved ones, "but Akai Gurley wasn't the only victim here''. Liang and his partner were inexperienced, inadequately trained and, as rookies, had no business conducting a vertical patrol in a darkened staircase, she said in her letter.

"`We cannot scapegoat these two officers and ignore the NYPD protocols set in place. I am requesting Judge Chun to consider all the circumstances when he issues a sentence for Peter Liang," she wrote.

Stavisky told China Daily that nobody had requested she write the letter, but that she had done so because she felt that justice would not be served if Liang were sentenced to a long prison sentence on the second-degree count.

"I just didn't think it'd be in the interest of justice," she said. "There were no winners here — everybody was a victim, whether it be Gurley and his family, or Officer Liang and his family. This is a very sad situation."

Stavisky's letter to the Kings County Supreme Court judge is one of many that have been written seeking leniency for Liang.

The Committee of 100 sent a letter last month saying that Liang "does not appear to be a danger to society" and that it trusts that Chun "will decide on a fair and just outcome commensurate with the applicable law and the circumstances of the case".

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