(CHICAGO) — A former Chicago police officer convicted of second-degree murder in the killing of an African-American teenager he shot 16 times received a dose of prison justice just days after Illinois prosecutors moved to seek a harsher sentence for him, according to a report.
Jason Van Dyke was allegedly beaten by inmates at a federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, where he was secretly moved to last week, sources told ABC’s Chicago station WLS-TV.
Van Dyke, 40, was beaten in his cell by more than one inmate, according to the report.
Van Dyke’s wife, Tiffany, told the Chicago Sun-Times that her husband had been placed in the general population of the prison.
“We are all petrified and in fear for Jason’s life,” Tiffany Van Dyke told the Sun-Times. “Jason just wants to serve his sentence. He does not want any trouble. I hope prison officials will take steps to rectify this right away. He never should have been in the general population.”
Tiffany Van Dyke is expected to speak about the incident at a news conference scheduled for Thursday.
Sources told WLS-TV that Van Dyke suffered facial injuries in the attack.
Van Dyke had been held at an undisclosed state prison in Illinois but was transferred to the low-security Connecticut penitentiary on Feb. 5. His attorneys and family members were not made aware of the transfer until a day or two later, a family source told the Sun-Times.
On Oct. 5, a Cook County Circuit Court jury found Van Dyke guilty on charges of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm stemming from the 2014 incident in which the former officer fired 16 shots at 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in a span of 15 seconds.
Video released of the Oct. 20, 2014, shooting showed McDonald was armed with a knife but the teen didn’t appear to be moving toward the police officers who responded when Van Dyke opened fire.
During his trial, Van Dyke testified that he believed McDonald was coming at him with a knife.
“We never lost eye contact. His eyes were bugging out of his face,” Van Dyke said. “His face was expressionless. He turned his torso towards me.”
He said he told McDonald to drop the knife but “he never dropped it.”
“My focus was just on that knife, and I just wanted him to get rid of that knife,” Van Dyke testified.
He was sentenced in January to less than seven years in prison.
Earlier this week, the Illinois state attorney general and a special prosecutor filed a petition with the state Supreme Court challenging a trial judge’s sentencing of Van Dyke.
Judge Vincent Gaughan’s sentencing of Van Dyke prompted outrage from McDonald’s family and community activists who saw it as far too lenient.
In their filing on Monday in what is called a “mandamus” petition, state Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Special Prosecutor Joseph McMahan argued that Gaughan erred in sentencing Van Dyke “solely on the second-degree murder conviction” and by declining to impose a sentence on the counts of aggravated battery.
Citing legal precedent, prosecutors argued that Gaughan should have been required to sentence Van Dyke on the 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. The former officer could have faced at least six years in prison on each charge, for a total of 96 years.
The move by prosecutors prompted Van Dyke’s attorneys to file an appeal of his conviction.
“I think this is politically motivated and I don’t think it’s an appropriate filing based on the issues at hand,” Van Dyke’s attorney, Jennifer Blagg, told ABC News on Tuesday. “A mandamus is an extraordinary remedy that should only be used in very unique circumstances and this isn’t one of those circumstances.”
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