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Kwame Raoul, Joseph McMahon challenge sentence

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Special Prosecutor Joe McMahon are challenging Jason Van Dyke’s prison sentence.

Raoul said he is specifically challenging Cook County Judge Vincent Gaughan’s decision to sentence Van Dyke for second-degree murder, not aggravated battery.

The challenge has been made in a petition for a writ of mandamus filed with the state Supreme Court.

Raoul called this a question of whether the law was followed by the judge. He said he thinks it wasn’t.

McMahon said the defense in the case has filed a notice of appeal.

It’s been less than a month since Gaughan handed down Van Dyke’s six-year, nine-month prison sentence. His decision stunned activists, who expected a stiffer punishment after a jury last year found Van Dyke guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery.

If the sentence stands, Van Dyke would likely serve a little more than three years in prison after shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in October 2014.

That’s because Gaughan sentenced Van Dyke only on the second-degree murder charge, which means he must serve about half the sentence under good-time provisions. Had he been sentenced on the aggravated battery charges, he would have had to serve at least 85 percent of that time.

After the sentencing Jan. 18 at the George N. Leighton Criminal Courthouse, McMahon said the judge’s decision held Van Dyke accountable for McDonald’s murder but balanced that against Van Dyke’s years of service as a police officer.

READ MORE: Our guide to the Laquan McDonald shooting and related trials
Daniel Herbert, Van Dyke’s lawyer, told reporters his client felt “happy.”

“He truly felt great. I mean, he was not just relieved, he was happy. The first time I’ve seen the guy, honestly, since this whole ordeal started, where he was happy,” Herbert said. “He’s happy about the prospect about life ahead of him.”

Less than a week later, word got out that Raoul’s office was “reviewing” the sentence, suggesting the criminal case that had already roiled Chicago had not yet reached its conclusion.

Legal experts pointed to Gaughan’s decision to sentence Van Dyke solely on the second-degree murder charge. Sentencing offenders for the most serious charge they face, and not on lesser charges, is standard. But case law clearly lays out that aggravated battery is the more serious count, some experts have said.

Meanwhile, Herbert accused the attorney general of using the Van Dyke case for political gain. Raoul took office just days before Van Dyke’s sentencing hearing.

“This is about politics, not the law,” Herbert said.

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