CHICAGO — Prosecutors in Illinois are challenging the prison sentence of Jason Van Dyke, the Chicago police officer who was convicted last year of killing Laquan McDonald and sentenced to nearly seven years in prison, a term that was criticized by many in Chicago as too lenient.
In a petition filed Monday, Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Joseph McMahon, the special prosecutor in Van Dyke’s trial, asked the Illinois Supreme Court to review whether the sentence, after a conviction of second-degree murder, was proper under the law.
“This is a question of whether the law was followed and whether a sentence was rendered on the appropriate charges,” Raoul, a Democrat who took office last month, said at a news conference Monday, adding: “That is not a political question. That is a question of law.”
At issue is whether Van Dyke, who was also convicted of 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm for each of the 16 shots he fired, should be sentenced for the aggravated batteries, which could result in a significantly longer prison term. Under his current sentence, exclusively for the second-degree murder conviction, he could be released from prison in as little as three years.
Judge Vincent Gaughan ruled that he issued a sentence only on the second-degree murder charge because it was more serious than the aggravated battery counts.
The prosecutors’ petition asks the Supreme Court to vacate Van Dyke’s sentence for second-degree murder and impose a sentence on each of the 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm.
Prosecutors had originally asked the judge to issue a sentence of at least 18 years in prison.
Darren O’Brien and Jennifer Blagg, Van Dyke’s lawyers, said in a joint statement that the petition was politically motivated, and that given the efforts to revisit Van Dyke’s prison term, he would now appeal his conviction. Van Dyke had earlier indicated that he was pleased with his sentence.
The prosecutors “seek to turn the Illinois Supreme Court from a deliberative body into a political battleground,” the statement said. “The filing also opens up a Pandora’s box of legal issues that, in the long term, could result in grossly excessive, unjust sentences for defendants that follow in the wake of this request.”
After the sentence was issued last month, McMahon, the special prosecutor, had appeared to be satisfied, saying at the time that “justice was served for Jason Van Dyke.”
“It strikes a balance between holding Jason Van Dyke accountable and also recognizing his service as a police officer,” he said.
On Monday, McMahon said that he has had “the benefit of some time” in considering whether to challenge the sentence.
“I think the bigger message in this case is to make sure that the sentence that is imposed is a sentence that is lawful,” he said.
McMahon said that this was the only legal avenue to challenge the legality of the sentence. He added that he believed that Laquan’s family was supportive of the prosecutors’ efforts.
“Whatever the outcome, she would like this process to be over,” he said of Laquan’s mother, Tina Hunter.
Van Dyke, who is white, shot and killed Laquan in October 2014 on the Southwest Side of Chicago as the black teenager walked down the street, carrying a pocketknife and ignoring officers’ orders to stop. A grainy video of Laquan’s death, recorded from the dashboard of a police car, was eventually released to the public, setting off widespread condemnation and protests.
Van Dyke was the first Chicago police officer in almost 50 years to be convicted of murder.
There is no deadline for the Supreme Court to decide whether to consider the petition. If it agrees to consider the petition, Van Dyke’s lawyers will have one week to file an objection.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.