I attended the sentencing of Los Angeles Police Officer Mary O’Callaghan this morning. O’Callaghan was convicted last month of assault by a peace officer under color of authority on Alesia Thomas in South Los Angeles. Alesia Thomas died after that assault and as the video showed, Officer O’Callaghan nor her colleagues were the slightest bit concerned. Many people felt that O’Callaghan should have been charged with felony murder or at the very least manslaughter–myself included.
It was an emotionally filled proceeding from the start. The District Attorney’s Office recommended felony probation and 180 days in jail. The defense recommended it be dropped down to a misdemeanor and probation be given.
Alesia Thomas’ mother, the father of her oldest daughter and Najee Ali made victim impact statements—the latter I do not know why. Wait–let me stop lying, yes I do.
Officer O’Callaghan spoke directly to Alesia Thomas’ mother and I could tell she was incredibly sincere and remorseful for what happened. That much was clear. At one point Mrs. Thomas wanted to hug Officer O’Callaghan but the judge said nope, can’t do it.
So about the sentence itself.
Judge Sam Ohta flat out denied probation from the jump. In Judge Ohta’s rationale he cited AB 109 and how California’s realignment laws were going to play a role in his decision. He also made it a point to say that in rendering his decision he was really focused on two areas–1) punishment and 2) using O’Callaghan as an example to deter other police officers from making the same mistake. In the end, the judge imposed the maximum of 3 years but because of AB 109 O’Callaghan was eligible to have 20 months suspended off of that sentence. She was credited for 49 days times two for a total of 98 days.
Now 16 months is not going to be 16 months. This is the county jail we are talking about. At most, my guess is that she does 6 months before she is free to go. But it was the judge who imposed the maximum–not District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s office who asked for probation and 180 days.
For O’Callaghan though, I think the real punishment is that she lost her pension after nearly two decades of service in the LAPD. She lost her medical benefits and she will never be able to work as a police officer again. In fact, her ability to make money is going to be severely hampered with a felony conviction. Her attorney mentioned that she was going to lose her job as a police dispatcher in Vermont. Her reputation is ruined. I think the time she spends in jail is nothing to compared to all of these things.
Still I don’t think O’Callaghan was the only officer who should have been on trial. She was one a few officers who played a role in the untimely demise of Alesia Thomas but for some reason folks are looking the other way on when it comes to those officers.
I walked out of the courtroom feeling sympathetic for all parties involved. There were no winners today. However, O’Callaghan will live to see another day. Alesia Thomas won’t. Her children don’t have a mother and are going to have to live with knowing her mother died while in police custody. A death that by all means was egregious and in view of officers who lacked any kind of compassion or respect for her while she was struggling to breathe.
Now as to the answer to the question on whether or not O’Callaghan’s sentence to jail time is going to be a warning to other officers to shape up–that remains to be seen. In the meantime we have Chief Charlie Beck’s decision on the two officers involved in the death of Ezell Ford and of course Officer Richard Garcia’s upcoming trial in the assault of Clinton Alford.