South African Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was sentenced to prison for five years Tuesday for the 2013 killing of his girlfriend, less than half the time he could have received following his manslaughter conviction last month.
Judge Thokozile Masipa said a long sentence would show a lack of mercy toward Pistorius, known as the “Blade Runner” for racing on prosthetic legs. She suspended a separate three-year sentence for an unrelated firearms charge.
Barry Roux, Pistorius’ lawyer, said his client could be released after 10 months to serve the remainder of his sentence under house arrest.
Pistorius could have received up to 15 years in prison for shooting model Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013 in his home. The case has brought global attention to the 27-year-old double-amputee.
The judge, ruling in place of a jury, found Pistorius guilty of culpable homicide — the equivalent of manslaughter — for killing Steenkamp, 29, after shooting her through a bathroom door. She acquitted him of murder.
Pistorius said the shooting was accidental.
“The following is what I consider is a sentence that is fair and just both to society and the accused,” Masipa said.
Pistorius’ uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said the family would support the track star during his time in prison.
“We accept the judgment. Oscar will embrace the opportunity to pay back society,” he said, suggesting there would be no appeal from the defense. Nathi Mncube, a spokesman for prosecutors, said his office has not decided whether to appeal the sentence.
Steenkamp’s family was in court Tuesday to hear the sentence.
June, Reeva’s mother, said justice had been done. Last week, the Steenkamps said they would not file a civil claim against the Olympian. They also said they would pay back money he lent them to cover living expenses.
Some South Africans feel the prison sentence was too light.
“I think it should have been 10 to 15 years and the only reason that it’s less is because of his contribution to society and his disability,” said Ilanit Chernick, 22, of Johannesburg. “I think he will be out within the next year or two because of good behavior, which is an injustice to the justice system.”
“(Pistorius is) a killer, a murderer,” said Zamikhaya France, 33, a magazine seller in Cape Town. “You have to punish him (strongly) or he’ll do it again.”
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SOURCE: USA Today
Rebecca Weber and Zaheer Cassim