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Akai Gurley's Aunt Calls DA a 'Disgrace' for Light Sentence Recommendation

By Trevor Kapp | April 14, 2016 11:57am
 Akai Gurley's family said they're drained and outraged over the possibility of a mistrial.
Akai Gurley's family said they're drained and outraged over the possibility of a mistrial.
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DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

BROOKLYN SUPREME COURT — Akai Gurley’s aunt blasted Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson as a “disgrace” Thursday morning for throwing salt on their wounds by recommending ex-NYPD Officer Peter Liang be spared prison time after his manslaughter conviction.

“You have sent a wrong message,” Gurley’s aunt, Hertencia Petersen, said during a 200-person protest outside Brooklyn Supreme Court. “This is unacceptable. This is a disgrace to your legacy. This should not have happened.”

Thompson, who aggressively sought an indictment in the case, requested last month that Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun not sentence Liang to any prison time after his manslaughter conviction for the November 2014 fatal shooting of the unarmed Gurley in a public housing stairwell. Thompson instead asked that Liang receive house arrest and perform community service.

Sentencing in the case was expected Thursday, but that changed after Liang’s defense team filed a motion for a mistrial, claiming that juror Michael Vargas lied about his family’s checkered past during panel selection.

Defense lawyer Paul Shechtman grilled Vargas Wednesday over why he omitted the fact his father served seven years in prison for accidentally killing a friend decades ago.

Vargas insisted he had little relationship with his father and said he didn’t know the specifics of the case.

Prosecutors will cross-examine Vargas Thursday afternoon.

Liang's sentencing is now expected to be delayed until Tuesday.

Petersen said the dragged-out process is excruciating for her family.

“Our family can’t take it anymore,” she said. “We are drained and outraged by the possibility that we may go through this all over again if there is a mistrial.”