Unrepentant officers due sentencing in King case Pair face terms of up to 10 years

August 04, 1993|By New York Times News Service

LOS ANGELES -- Still publicly unrepentant, the two police officers convicted in the beating of Rodney G. King on March 3, 1991, will hear their sentence today and by the end of the day could be behind bars for the first time.

Since their conviction in April for violating Mr. King's civil rights, both Stacey C. Koon, who is 42, and Laurence M. Powell, 30, have repeated in strong terms their belief that they acted properly in the violent, videotaped beating that for many Americans has become a symbol of police brutality.

They say they are being sacrificed to maintain the city's fragile peace following last year's riots.

On the "Donahue" show shortly after the verdict, Koon angrily confronted two of the jurors who had convicted him and said they had misunderstood the testimony and the realities of police work.

Presenting himself as a sort of martyr for the reform of police policies on the use of force, he said, "If I have to go to jail for one year, or 10 years, or however many years, it's all worth it if they change this policy."

And in a departmental newsletter called The Thin Blue Line, Powell, who has not appeared in public since the trial, offered a cry of anguish in which he called himself and his sergeant "sacrificial lambs."

Today, Judge John G. Davies of U.S. District Court will sentence the two men for using excessive force and failing to protect Mr. King's welfare when they arrested him after a high-speed chase for speeding.

They face prison terms of up to 10 years without the possibility of parole and fines of up to $250,000.

Judge Davies will break down the complex testimony of the trial into its component legal parts, each fitting a category in federal sentencing guidelines.

Most legal experts expect the officers to be sentenced to a substantial portion of the maximum penalty; virtually no one is predicting that either of them will avoid prison. Judge Davies could remand them immediately into custody, could give them a few weeks to get their affairs in order or could allow them to remain free on bail, as they have been for 2 1/2 years, while they appeal.

The federal guidelines on sentencing set out strict parameters for sentencing for individual crimes, based on specific factors that can raise or lower the length of prison terms.

To sentence the officers, the judge must ask himself a number of questions, including whether Mr. King was passive or aggressive, whether either officer lied in their police reports, and whether the officers suffered unusually by going through two trials.

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