A Minnesota judge teared up as she asked the public to have sympathy for former police officer Kim Potter.
Judge Regina Chu handed Potter a 2-year sentence on Friday for the killing of Daunte Wright during a traffic stop.
Chu said police officers have the "most difficult" job in public service during the sentencing hearing.
The Minnesota judge who handed down a 2-year sentence to former cop Kim Potter for killing Daunte Wright got emotional as she asked the public to empathize with the ex-officer — and said that Potter tried "to do the right thing."
"I recognize that there will be those who disagree with the sentence," Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu said in the courtroom after handing down the sentence to Potter. "That I granted a significant downward departure does not in any way diminish Daunte Wright's life."
"His life mattered," Chu said. "And to those who disagree and feel a longer prison sentence is appropriate, as difficult as it may be please try to empathize with Mrs. Potter's situation."
Potter, a 26-year veteran cop, fatally shot Wright during a traffic stop in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center on April 11, 2021. Potter had claimed she meant to use her Taser on Wright and grabbed her gun by mistake; prosecutors noted that her Taser was holstered on the opposite side of her body.
Potter faced a total of up to 25 years in prison after her conviction in December 2021.
Prosecutors on Tuesday had asked the judge to sentence Potter to more than 7 years in prison, according to court documents, while Potter's defense argued in court that she should only serve probation due to her having no previous criminal record.
Under Judge Chu's sentencing, Potter will serve 16 months in prison with the possibility of 8 months of supervised release for the end of her sentence.
Chu appeared to tear up as she quoted former President Barack Obama, saying, "Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world."
The judge again got choked up as she defended Potter.
"Officer Kimberly Potter was trying to do the right thing," Chu said, adding, "Of all the jobs in public service, police officers have the most difficult one."
"They must make snap decisions under tense evolving and ever-changing circumstances," the judge said. "They risk their lives every single day.
An emotional Chu continued, "Officer Potter made a mistake that ended tragically."
"She never intended to hurt anyone. Her conduct cries out for a sentence significantly below the guidelines," Chu said.
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, the state's largest police union, released a statement on Friday thanking Chu for departing downward from the state's requested sentence of more than 7 years.
"We are thankful for Judge Chu's thoughtful approach in her stated reasoning, as she recognized Ms. Potter's law enforcement service and that she made a tragic mistake," the statement said.
Wright's father called the 2-year sentence a "slap in the face" at a press conference after the sentencing on Friday. Wright's mother, Katie Bryant, told reporters that it felt like the justice system "murdered" Daunte "all over again.
"To sit there and pouring my heart out in my victim impact statement that took so long to write, and I rewrote it over and over again, to not get a response out of the judge but then when it came down to sentencing Kim Potter, she broke out in tears," Bryant said at the press conference.
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