By Paul Walsh

Star Tribune

MINNEAPOLIS — Former Brooklyn Heart police officer Kimberly Potter was sentenced Friday to 2 years in jail for fatally taking pictures Daunte Wright throughout a visitors cease final yr.

Hennepin County District Choose Regina Chu handed down the sentence after listening to victim-impact statements and arguments from the prosecution and Potter’s protection this morning.

Potter will serve the primary 16 months in jail and the stability on supervised launch. Chu referred to as it “a major downward departure” from state sentencing pointers, including that it was “the saddest case in my 20 years on the bench.”

“I acknowledge there will likely be those that disagree with the sentence. That I granted a major downward departure doesn’t in any method diminish Daunte Wright’s life. His life mattered,” Chu stated. “To those that disagree and really feel an extended jail sentence is suitable, as troublesome as it could be, please attempt to empathize with Ms. Potter’s state of affairs,” Chu stated, ultimately wiping away tears. “Officer Potter made a mistake that ended tragically. She by no means supposed to harm anybody.”

The continuing ended with sheriff’s deputies main Potter away from the courtroom and again to jail.

Proceedings started shortly after 9 a.m. within the Hennepin County courtroom, who earlier this week was requested by prosecutors at hand down a jail time period really useful by state sentencing pointers — a request totally different from their earlier intention to hunt a longer-than-recommended time period.

Jurors convicted Potter, 49, on Dec. 23 of first- and second-degree manslaughter for fatally taking pictures Wright as soon as within the chest throughout an April 11, 2021, visitors cease. Potter will likely be sentenced on the upper rely, per state legislation.

Potter spoke at her sentencing by way of sobs, expressing regret and hoping for forgiveness from the Wright household.

Prosecutor Matthew Frank was first to handle the court docket and spelled out why Potter must be sentenced inside the pointers vary of barely greater than six years to roughly 8 1⁄2 years, quite than one thing lower than being sought by the protection.

“We do not doubt that Miss Potter has regret, however this … is a courtroom filled with ache and anger,” Frank stated. “How will we repair that? What can we do? This can be a divided neighborhood. What will be finished to revive a number of the religion and belief between legislation enforcement and the neighborhood.”

Frank stated that Potter “is in a novel place to make one thing of what has occurred for the advantage of lots of people … speaking to officers in regards to the risks of weapons confusion … she will be able to discuss to producers about this. She will be able to discuss to the Wright household, ought to they need.”

[RELATED: Unintended: A theory of TASER/weapon confusion]

Wright’s mom, Katie Bryant, was the primary of his household to make sufferer impression statements.

” Daunte Wright is my son, my child boy and I say ‘is’ and never ‘was’ as a result of he’ll at all times be my son, and I am proud to say that,” she stated. “I’ve spent many, many sleepless nights and days considering how and what I used to be going to say at present, I’ve to be the voice for myself, my household, my neighborhood, most of all for my son Daunte.”

All through her assertion, Bryant referred to Potter because the defendant, as a result of all through trial, she stated, Potter solely referred to her son as “the motive force,” quite than by his title.

Bryant stated April 11 of final yr was the worst day of her life due to a police officer sworn to guard. As a substitute, “She took our child boy with a single gunshot to his coronary heart, and he or she shattered mine.”

“I blame myself, I should not have advised him it was gonna be alright, I advised him he was gonna be OK, solely to seek out out a couple of minutes later that he wasn’t,” she stated of her remaining dialog along with her son, throughout a cellphone name he positioned in the course of the visitors cease.

Bryant stated she believed Potter’s regret was just for herself, not for killing her son. She stated she’s going to proceed to say her son’s title, “till driving whereas Black isn’t a demise sentence.”

Protection lawyer Paul Engh laid out his rationale for Potter to not go to jail however be placed on probation.

“That is past tragic for everyone concerned,” Engh stated. “We hear clearly the statements of the household. We acknowledge them.”

He stated the probation workplace’s report sizing up whether or not Potter is amenable to probation ame again in his shopper’s favor.

“That report alone,” Engh stated to the choose, “would give you the authority” to impose a probationary sentence.

He stated his analysis discovered that 60% of girls dealing with a presumptive sentence of jail in Minnesota as an alternative are placed on probation.

He additionally reminded the court docket that “this was an unintentional crime. It was a mistake. I used to be an accident.” Engh additionally repeated what the protection contended in court docket: that Daunte Wright was an aggressor when he tried to flee three law enforcement officials who have been within the strategy of arresting him.

Engh stated that Potter stays remoted within the Shakopee ladies’s correctional facility for her security, and that “all she does is spend her days getting checked each half-hour by a guard, making remoted cellphone calls, and staying in her cell.” The end result, he stated, has resulted in a decline in psychological and bodily well being.

“It’s harming her,” he stated. “So we now have on one hand punishment however sending her to jail will hurt her. We’re not within the enterprise of harming defendants.”

Potter has the assist of her household, and even strangers, Engh stated, producing a field of playing cards from strangers.

“What occurred to you possibly can have occurred to any of us,” Engh learn from one card from a legislation enforcement officer. “As a legislation enforcement neighborhood throughout the nation, we’re reeling.”

Engh additionally learn one from her 81-year-old mom, who wrote how a lot she relied on her daughter for assist with on a regular basis wants corresponding to cleansing, paying payments and driving her round. She requested that her daughter obtain probation so she will be able to come dwelling and proceed serving to her.

“Kim is my daughter however she’s additionally my good friend,” her mom wrote. “She’s a superb individual and it makes me unhappy that persons are speaking so terribly about her.”

Arbuey Wright, Daunte’s father, adopted Katie Bryant. Like his spouse, he additionally was troubled that Potter smiled for her jail mug shot taken quickly after her conviction.

Engh defined Potter’s smiling mug shot, saying, “There isn’t any disrespect supposed [with] the reserving picture at Shakopee [prison]. She indicated they requested her to smile. She smiled.”

Arbuey Wright stated “Daunte meant the world to me, made out of the unconditional love that me and my spouse have for one another. Daunte was my cause to get higher, to vary my life.”

Noting that his son was shot within the coronary heart, Arbuey Wright stated Potter “additionally broken my complete household’s coronary heart. Every little thing we do as a household ends in tears as a result of all we now have is the reminiscence of my son.”

Chyna Whitaker, the mom of Daunte Wright’s child son, Daunte Jr., stated, I am now a single mom, not by alternative however by drive.”

Potter additionally may have a possibility to handle the court docket forward of sentencing.

Quickly after sentencing, response is being deliberate by state Lawyer Basic Keith Ellison, whose workplace led the prosecution of Potter, and attorneys representing the Wright household.

State sentencing pointers name for a jail time period between about six years and about 8½ years for first-degree manslaughter for a defendant like Potter, who has no legal historical past. The presumptive time period is a bit over seven years. She is prone to serve two-thirds of her time in jail and the stability on supervised launch.

Potter posted bond after she was charged final yr and was out of custody main as much as and all through her trial. She was instantly arrested after her conviction and is in Division of Corrections custody as she awaits sentencing.

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