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Asian group pushes for leniency for Liang

By LIA ZHU in San Francisco ( Updated: 2016-03-22 11:06

Asian group pushes for leniency for Liang

Don Sun (right), president of the Silicon Valley branch of the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA), and Jerry Chen (left), vice-president of the Silicon Valley APAPA chapter, hold the open letter to Judge Danny Chun that will be printed in the March 26 national edition of the New York Times. LIA ZHU / CHINA DAILY

As the April 14 sentencing of former NYPD Officer Peter Liang draws near, an Asian-Pacific American group has been working to help Liang gain leniency from the judge. Their recent efforts include placing a full-page ad in major print media.

In an open letter to Judge Danny Chun, the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA) asks him to consider all the prior fatalities involving NYPD officers as well as the "mitigating factors" and the "lack of aggravating factors" and impose a "no jail, probation" sentence.

The open letter will be carried on a full page ad in the March 26 national edition of New York Times.

The mitigating factors listed in the letter include Liang's lack of experience and training, his lack of a prior criminal record and that he poses no danger to the community, as well as the nature of the case — it being an accident.

"We think the trial was fair and we respect the criminal justice system and the verdict of the jury. But there's a good chance for the judge to hand down a lenient sentence considering these factors," said Don Sun, president of the Silicon Valley chapter of APAPA, who initiated and coordinated the effort with the other 15 APAPA chapters in the country.

"When drafting the letter, we consulted with district attorneys and police experts, as well as Harvard law school professors. They all think it is mild, empathetic and legally sound," he added.

"We are not trying to challenge the judicial system but want to implore the judge and the public to be empathetic, as he is not a vicious criminal," said Jerry Chen, vice-president of the Silicon Valley chapter of APAPA.

In their letter, the group also expressed sympathy to the African-American community over the recent deaths of Akai Gurley, the victim in Liang's case, and others from police officers' use of force.

"Any accidental loss of life is a tragedy to the victim, the accused and the society," says the letter. "More importantly, the response of the criminal justice system can potentially create more collateral damage, particularly where the larger context is framed by complex racial tensions."

Sun said his group had been discussing ways to help Gurley's family and would resume efforts to collect donations after the sentence is made.

Liang was convicted on Feb 11 of second-degree manslaughter and official misconduct in the 2014 shooting of Gurley in a Brooklyn housing project. The manslaughter charge carries up to 15 years in prison.

Tens of thousands of members of Chinese communities held rallies in more than 40 cities on Feb 20 to show support for Liang.

"Liang's case is a rare opportunity to unite so many Chinese in their history of striving for rights (in the US)," said Sun. "But after the rallies, it seems they don't know where to go. As a grassroots organization, APAPA should lead community efforts to a new level, which is to shift the focus from street protest to affecting decision-making, and the first step is to make our voice heard and eventually accepted by mainstream society."

For the New York Times advertisement, Sun said his group had raised most of the cost but there's still short of around $3,000.

"We hope the community would chip in whatever little they have to get involved in the drive," he said.

He said it was important to educate the Chinese community about the judicial system. His group has recently signed a year-long contract with a local farmer's market to set up a booth there promoting voter registration and citizen's duties.

"If everyone set aside two hours a month for civil rights efforts, it would be a huge force," said Sun.

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