Sentencing guidelines suggested that Potter received a maximum of nine years in prison after being found guilty of first- and second-degree manslaughter in connection to Wright’s April 2021 death, with Minnesota attorney general Keith Ellison recommending an 86-month sentence in a memorandum to the court. Wright’s family sought the maximum sentence.
Instead, Hennepin County Judge Regina Chu handed down a two-year sentence, of which roughly only two-thirds, or 18 months, will be spent behind bars, with the remaining third spent under supervised release pending good behavior. Potter was also fined $1,000.
In delivering the shockingly light sentence, Chu argued that Potter “never intended to hurt anyone. Her conduct cries out for a sentence significantly below the guidelines.” Outside the courtroom, Wright’s father Aubrey called the sentence “a slap on the wrist.”
Judge Chu got emotional as she talked about officers risking their lives every single day in public service: "Officer Potter made a mistake that ended tragically. She never intended to hurt anyone," judge wipes away a tear. #KimPotter #DaunteWright @LawCrimeNetwork pic.twitter.com/26NZpAfPN8
— Cathy Russon (@cathyrusson) February 18, 2022
Potter shot Wright on April 11, 2021 after the 20-year-old black male was pulled over for expired registration tags and because officers saw an air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror (which is against the law in Minnesota). When the officers discovered there was a misdemeanor warrant out for Wright’s arrest, they tried to detain him. In body camera footage, Wright can be seen trying to get back into his car, and after a scuffle Potter can be heard shouting, “Taser”; she instead pointed her gun at Wright and fatally shot him. The incident sparked renewed protesting in a state still reeling from George Floyd’s death a year earlier.
“Of all the jobs in public service, police officers have the most difficult one,” Chu added. “They must make snap decisions under tense evolving and ever-changing circumstances. They risk their lives every single day in public service. Officer Potter made a mistake that ended tragically.”
At trial, Potter’s legal team argued that what she did was a “mistake” and not a crime, and while the jury ultimately convicted Potter, that defense resonated with the judge.
“Her conduct cries out for a sentence significantly below the guidelines,” Chu told the court. “I recognize there will be those who disagree with this sentence. That I granted a significant downward departure does not in any way diminish Daunte Wright’s life. His life mattered. And to those who disagree and feel a longer prison sentence is appropriate — as difficult as it may be — please try to empathize with Miss Potter’s situation. As President Barack Obama once said, ‘Learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes — to see through their eyes — that’s how peace begins. And it’s up to you to make that happen.’ Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world. “
Prior to sentencing, Potter tearfully apologized to Wright’s family, specifically his mother Katie. “I pray for Daunte and all of you many, many times a day. He is not more than one thought away from my heart and I have no right for that, for him to be in my heart,” Potter said. “And I do pray that one day, you can find forgiveness, only because hatred is so destructive to all of us. And that I pray peace will always be with you and your family. Again, I am so sorry.”
‘White women tears trumps justice’ — Katie Wright, Daunte Wright’s mother, reacted to Judge Regina Chu’s tears while sentencing Kim Potter and said ‘today the justice system murdered [Daunte] all over again’ pic.twitter.com/gw8UR3GRod
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) February 18, 2022
However, following the sentencing hearing, Wright’s family criticized the judge’s ruling. “So once again, we are standing here to say that we’re very disappointed in the outcome,” Wright’s mother Katie, who is white, told the press (via CNN). “Yes, we got a conviction, and we thank everybody for that. But again, this isn’t OK. This is the problem with our justice system today, and white women tears trumps — trumps — justice. And I thought my white woman tears would be good enough because they’re true and genuine.”