Posted May 23, 2008- Arthur Bruce Tesler, the Atlanta Police detective who was acquitted of murder charges in the shooting death of a 92-year-old woman in a botched drug raid will still spend close to five years in prison, a judge ruled Thursday.
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Earlier this week a jury spared Tesler of a possible 20-year term for his role in the death of Kathryn Johnston, whom officers shot dead in her North Atlanta home just two days before Thanksgiving in 2006.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson came close to imposing the maximum of five years in prison, slapping Tesler, 42, with four years, six months in the slammer. The courtroom was jam-packed as Johnson meted out his punishment.
"I'm truly sorry for what happened," Tesler said, as the Rev. Al Sharpton, Atlanta Police Chief Richard Pennington and others looked on. "I want to do as much as I can to see that it never happens again." Pennington had testified on behalf of the prosecution, saying that the case "a tremendous effect on the department," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Many within the Black community were outraged that the jury had acquitted Tesler of the tougher charges, saying it showed once again how little regard some have for African-American lives. The two other officers involved in Johnston’s death – Gregg Junnier and Jason R. Smith – pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and civil rights violations rather than face trial on murder charges. Tesler, Junnier and Smith are White; Johnston was Black.
"The thing that this trial revealed is that Arthur Tesler certainly was a criminal, but the real culprit in this was flawed policies (and) procedures and a history of misuse of confidential informants. To the extent this can be used to weed out the problem, we think this is a victory," Markel Hutchins, a community activist and spokesman for Johnston's family, told the Journal-Constitution. Junnier and Smith, who along with Tesler had lied to get a search warrant, busted into Johnston’s home. The elderly woman fired at the officers, who shot her to death.
Tesler was positioned at the rear of the home. He did not shoot his weapon but admitted planting narcotics in Johnston’s home. "I think the trial brought out what we've been saying for years, that there's a corruption problem," Sharpton said.