Former Culpeper police officer gets 3 years for killing motorist - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Former Culpeper police officer gets 3 years for killing motorist

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CULPEPER, Va. -

Former Culpeper Police Officer Daniel Harmon-Wright asked a circuit judge for leniency at his sentencing hearing, saying he was “acting in self-defense and in the interest of public safety” when he shot to death an unarmed 54-year-old woman in 2012.

The ex-cop did not get the suspended sentence his attorney had asked for. Instead, Harmon-Wright got the full three-year sentence ordered by jurors at his trial.

Additionally, the judge ordered three years of supervised probation following the incarceration of the former policeman.

Harmon-Wright was convicted of voluntary manslaughter (and two other charges) for shooting to death unarmed motorist Patricia Cook as she drove away from him in 2012.

At his final sentencing hearing, the former cop personally asked for leniency, telling the judge, “I was acting in self-defense and in the interest of public safety” as the woman drove away with a sunscreen across her windshield. He did ask forgiveness from the Cook family “if they find it in their hearts to do so.”

Prosecutor Jim Fisher said the former policeman betrayed “the fraternity” of officers by treating his victim “like a video game,” taking her life.

Defense attorney Daniel Hawes argued that incarceration will make police less safe. Outside the courthouse Hawes told reporters, “If I were a cop … executing a search warrant on a crack house (and I’m afraid to pull my gun out), I think I’ve got a problem.”

But special prosecutor Fisher, brought in from an adjoining county, expressed irritation at the defense position. And Fisher cited the findings from the grand jury and the jury: “I understand he maintains his innocence, but again, 23 citizens at different stages of the prosecution have told him otherwise, and he just simply does not get it.”

Circuit Judge Susan Whitlock declined to reduce the jury’s sentence. Former policeman Harmon-Wright will serve the 36-month sentence imposed by the jury.

During his personal plea to the judge, the former policeman said the incident and the aftermath have ruined his life. Harmon-Wright said he has no assets. The judge declared him indigent. Any appeals (or further representation) will be paid for by the state.

Statement from John Weigler on behalf of Patricia Cook's family:

On behalf of myself and my mother, I would like to thank Mr. Fisher and Mr. Rabb for zealously representing the Commonwealth of Virginia and the citizens of Culpeper by pursuing felony convictions against Mr. Harmon-Wright, and securing a three year prison sentence. I also thank the Judge for sentencing Mr. Harmon-Wright to the maximum term she could under the law. I thank the jury for its time and consideration in hearing the case. I will spend the rest of my life working on forgiveness. It will take much time and prayer for that to happen, especially after Mr. Harmon-Wright appeared to neither accept responsibility for his actions nor show remorse for killing my sister. I look forward to another opportunity, through the civil justice system, to force those responsible for my sister's death to accept responsibility and be held fully accountable.


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