Pistorius sentencing: What it means
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — How much prison time will Oscar Pistorius ultimately serve for killing his girlfriend? And will the double-amputee Olympian ever run competitively again on the carbon-fiber blades that made him one of the world’s most recognizable athletes?
Here’s what Pistorius’ five-year jail sentence for culpable homicide in Reeva Steenkamp’s shooting death means:
HOW MANY YEARS IN PRISON?
Judge Thokozile Masipa sentenced Pistorius to five years in prison for negligently killing Steenkamp by shooting her through a closed toilet door in his home. But the specific law cited by the judge when she announced Pistorius’ sentence in a packed Pretoria courtroom allows a prisoner to apply for release after one-sixth of their term to serve the remainder under house arrest. That means Pistorius could be released from prison after 10 months, providing he meets criteria regarding good behavior while in jail.
WILL THE BLADE RUNNER RUN AGAIN?
Pistorius’ agent, Peet van Zyl, said no decision will be made on the multiple Paralympic champion’s career until they speak, which wasn’t possible Tuesday after Pistorius was taken straight to prison. The five-year sentence raises serious doubts if Pistorius, who is 27, will ever run at major meets again, especially after van Zyl testified during the trial that Pistorius had planned to retire at the end of 2017 anyway.
The International Paralympic Committee said that Pistorius would not be allowed to run at IPC events while serving his sentence — no matter where he was serving it — seemingly ruling the world’s most famous disabled sportsman out of the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro, one of the last major events he planned to run in. The International Olympic Committee and the IAAF, which control able-bodied athletics events, declined to comment on Pistorius’ case.
PROSECUTORS CONSIDER APPEAL
Pistorius’ legal battle may not be over yet.
Prosecutors said they are considering an appeal after Judge Masipa’s ruling meant Pistorius might serve less than a year in prison for shooting his girlfriend multiple times with his 9 mm pistol. Prosecutors had already expressed disappointment that Pistorius was acquitted of murder charges and instead found guilty of a lesser charge of culpable homicide, comparable to manslaughter. They have 14 days to apply for permission to appeal, and can appeal against the sentence or the verdict.
One thing is certain: Pistorius will never be allowed to own a firearm again.
FAMILIES ACCEPT SENTENCE
Pistorius’ family accepted the sentence, according to his uncle Arnold Pistorius, apparently ruling out any appeal from the defense.
“I hope Oscar will start his own healing process as he walks down the path of restoration,” Arnold Pistorius said. “As a family, we are ready to support and guide Oscar as he serves his sentence.”
Steenkamp’s parents, Barry and June, also indicated that they were satisfied with the five-year sentence.
The South African public has followed the trial closely and virtually everyone has an opinion on it. Many people welcomed the sentence and expressed satisfaction that Pistorius had gone to jail. Some said they think he should have been convicted of murder, not the lesser charge of manslaughter, and that the one-time South African hero should spend more time in prison. The women’s league of the ruling ANC party said that it was “dissatisfied” with the culpable homicide conviction and that Pistorius should have been found guilty of murder. It urged prosecutors to appeal.
“We hold that regardless of who Mr. Pistorius believed to be behind the bathroom door that fateful night, he shot to kill — and therefore a murder did occur,” the women’s league said in a statement.
For at least the next 10 months, Pistorius will be held at the Kgosi Mampuru II prison. Previously known as Pretoria Central, the prison was notorious in the apartheid years for executions and for holding anti-apartheid activists. The facility in South Africa’s capital contains the high-security C-Max unit, where some of the country’s most violent criminals are held. Authorities said the world-famous runner could be held in a hospital wing because of his disability and high profile, while a South African media report said a cell was prepared for him in a separate section that housed only one other prisoner — an alleged crime boss facing charges of attempted murder, assault and kidnapping.
Imray reported from Stellenbosch, South Africa. AP writer Lynsey Chutel contributed from Johannesburg.