Crime & Courts

Judge sentences ex-S.C. trooper to prison for 2014 shooting of black motorist

A former South Carolina state trooper who shot an unarmed motorist in 2014 was sentenced to 12 years in prison on Tuesday, but is expected to serve around three years behind the fence.

Sean Groubert pleaded guilty in March 2016 to assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. More than a year later, Circuit Judge Casey Manning handed him a 12-year sentence, suspended to five years with three years probation.

Because Groubert has spent the last 17 months in jail, that time will be applied to the five years he’s required to serve in prison. Once Groubert serves the five years, he will remain on probation for three years. Should he violate the terms of his probation, he would have to serve the remaining time of the 12 years, Manning said.

Groubert shot Levar Jones at a St. Andrews gas station during a traffic stop on Sept. 4, 2014, and was fired shortly thereafter. He pleaded guilty in March 2016, leaving Jones waiting nearly 18 months for his assailant to be sentenced. Groubert faced up to 20 years in prison.

The shooting gained national attention because Groubert is white, and Jones is African-American. It was one of a number of race-related police shootings in recent years in which evidence or witnesses indicated the shooting didn’t have to happen.

In initial statements to investigators, Groubert said he fired because he feared for his life. Dashcam video showed Jones being polite, complying with the trooper’s request.

Groubert’s lawyers, Barney Giese and Justin Kata, said during Groubert’s guilty plea that he suffers from PTSD related to a 2012 shootout with a suspect in Columbia’s Five Points. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental condition caused by an unsettling event in one’s past that triggers uncontrollable physical and emotional reactions in the present.

In that 2012 incident, Giese said, Groubert “was shot at and returned fire,” Giese said.

Staff writer John Monk contributed.

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