Former North Charleston cop Michael Slager released from jail after bond set at $500K

Slager in court Dec. 23 (WCIV)

Less than three hours after Judge Clifton Newman set bond at $500,000 for Michael Slager, the former North Charleston police officer accused of murder was released from jail.

Charleston County deputies say Slager was released from jail around 7 p.m.

That means for the first time since April 7, Slager will spend a night outside an isolation unit in the Charleston County Detention Center.

Slager will be under house arrest and he cannot communicate with the family of Walter Scott, the man he shot and killed during a traffic stop on April 4. His attorney, Andy Savage, asked that no one be given knowledge of where Slager and his family will be staying while they wait for trial.

Newman set the bond amount after spending several minutes discussing the specifics of determining a bond amount and whether an inmate was worthy of getting bond. Newman said the long delay before the trial date as well as several other factors led him to setting bond.

Before setting bond, Slager was given an opportunity to speak, the first time he had spoken in open court in months.

"I look forward to going to court and clearing my name," he said, standing before Newman in his detention center jumpsuit and shackles.

The news of bond was met with a brief joyous cry from Slager's wife, who along with his parents and sister and a dozen "members of the community" who support Slager, followed by a longer celebration outside the courtroom after the hearing was adjourned.

There were hugs and smiles and more than a few sighs of relief after the hearing.

As relieved as the Slager family was, the Scott family was equally as heartbroken and emotional.

Outside the courthouse shortly after the hearing, family attorney Justin Bamberg said despite the outcome the family was urging everyone to stay peaceful and respectful. Bamberg said justice would prevail in the case.

During the hearing, Walter Scott Sr. told the court he thought Slager should not be released because he is a threat to the community and himself.

"He should stay right where he's at," Scott said.

Walter Scott Sr. says the video of his son's death still makes him cry, and his family only gets to see flowers in a bucket at the gravesite but Slager would be able to see and hold his family if he was released.

The slain Scott's uncle, William Scott, echoed the sentiment that Slager would be a threat to the community.

"You can't just do what he did and not think about what you're doing," he said.

Solicitor Scarlett Wilson described Slager as playing the role of the victim since the case against him began.

"It's everybody's fault but his," she said.

It was a point Savage quickly defended, asking when Slager spoke about the murder case. Savage added the cellphone video released shortly before Slager's arrest is incomplete and that experts were piecing together more video to shed light on what happened in the minutes leading up to the shooting.

He repeated something said in previous hearings, that the new video evidence would reshape what people think of this case.

Before the discussion of bond, Wilson and Savage again rehashed the debate over a trial date. Wilson, who along with her staff is protected from trying another case until the conclusion of the Dylann Roof trial in July, has said the earliest she could be ready is sometime in November, some three months after a likely decision in the Roof case.

On Monday, Wilson offered the hard dates of jury selection on Nov. 9 and opening arguments on Nov. 14.

Savage again brought up the problems with diet at the detention center as he argued for an earlier date, saying the jail food is often not gluten free and it has made Slager sick multiple times. He also said delaying the trial was unfair to Slager, who had no criminal record and was not a flight risk.

In a filing last week, Wilson referenced a number of cases in which inmates were help considerably longer than Slager has been without a trial date, including a few people who waited several years.

"I haven't seen the list, but none of them were my clients," Savage responded. "I wonder if any of them are in solitary confinement."

Slager has been held in 23-hour isolation for his protection since his incarceration.

Savage also asked what would happen if Roof took a plea deal before his trial date, wondering if Slager's trial date would move up in response to a tidy conclusion to that high profile case.

Newman set the date for Oct. 31. Jury questionnaires could go out to potential jurors in August, according to the solicitor.

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