Oscar Pistorius sentenced to 5 years; athlete could be released after 10 months

Oscar Pistorius Sentenced To 5 Years In Prison

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) -- Oscar Pistorius was taken away in a police van Tuesday to start serving a five-year prison sentence for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

A South African judge cited the "gross negligence" the Olympic runner showed when he shot Steenkamp multiple times through a toilet cubicle door in his home when she delivered the sentence. Pistorius' prison term begins immediately.

Pistorius could be released after 10 months in jail to serve the remainder under house arrest, according to legal experts.

Masipa also sentenced Pistorius to three years in prison for unlawfully firing a gun in a restaurant in a separate incident weeks before Steenkamp's 2013 shooting death. She ordered that sentence to be wholly suspended for five years on condition that Pistorius is not found guilty of another firearm offense.

Masipa delivered her ruling after reviewing prosecution arguments for a tough sentence as well as the defense case for a more lenient punishment for Pistorius. She said it was a balancing act after defense lawyers had argued that Pistorius had already suffered emotionally and financially after what he called an accidental killing.

Masipa last month convicted Pistorius of culpable homicide, but acquitted him of murder after he testified he mistook Steenkamp for a nighttime intruder.

"The following is what I consider is a sentence that is fair and just both to society and the accused," Masipa said as she announced her decision.

She asked Pistorius to stand as she delivered the sentence, and the world-famous disabled runner faced her with his hands clasped in front of him. Pistorius then left the Pretoria courtroom down a flight of stairs that lead to holding cells. His sentence starts immediately and he was taken straight to the cells, a spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority said.

Pistorius' defense and the prosecution can both appeal the decision.

Nathi Mncube, the prosecution spokesman, said his office is disappointed in the culpable homicide conviction and has not yet decided whether to appeal the sentence.

"We have not made up our minds whether we're going to appeal it or not," he said. He added that there was an "appetite" to appeal but that prosecutors have 14 days to review their options.

"We are satisfied with the fact that he will be serving some time in prison," he said.

He said he thought the South African public would be satisfied because their justice system had been shown to be "functional."

"It's not only about vengeance but it is about making sure that there is a fair and just process," he said.

Masipa had a wide range of options available to her because South Africa does not have a minimum sentence for culpable homicide, which is comparable to manslaughter. Pistorius faced up to 15 years in jail, but could also have received a completely suspended sentence or house arrest.

"I am of the view that a non-custodial sentence would send a wrong message to the community," Masipa said after summarizing parts of the case and explaining why she reached her decision. "On the other hand, a long sentence would not be appropriate either as it would lack the element of mercy."

Marius du Toit, a legal analyst and criminal defense lawyer, said Pistorius would have to serve one-sixth of his sentence in prison - 10 months - before he could be eligible to be moved to house arrest.

"It's an appropriate sentence," du Toit said. He said a higher sentence would have been impossible because "you cannot elevate the sentence to murder."

Pistorius, 27, was earlier escorted through crowds of onlookers and into the Pretoria courthouse ahead of sentencing by police officers wearing blue berets. The parents of Steenkamp, the 29-year-old model he shot in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14, 2013, were also in court to hear the sentence.

The courtroom was packed, reflecting heightened media and public interest. Police officers stood guard in the aisles.

A Pistorius supporter laid three white roses near Pistorius.

"I just wanted to bestow a little bit of inner happiness on Oscar," said the supporter.

Outside the courthouse, a man in orange garb carried chains and a large sign that read: "Are certain offenders more equal than other offenders before the law?"

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Oscar Pistorius - Reeva Steenkamp
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Oscar Pistorius sentenced to 5 years; athlete could be released after 10 months
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 12: (BY COURT ORDER, THIS IMAGE IS FREE TO USE) Judge Thokozile Masipa speaks during Oscar Pistorius' trial at the Pretoria High Court on September 12, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa. South African Judge Thokosile Masipa has ruled out murder charges, but has left it to today to announce whether Oscar Pistorius is guilty of culpable homicide, as the six month trial of the Olympic double-amputee sprinter comes to an end. His defence maintained that Mr Pistorius mistook Ms Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder in his home when he fired several shots into his bathroom allegedly in self-defence but killing his girlfriend. (Photo by Alon Skuy/The Times-Pool/Gallo Image/Getty Images)
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 12: (BY COURT ORDER, THIS IMAGE IS FREE TO USE) Oscar Pistorius speaks with his uncle Arnold Pistorius during his trial at the Pretoria High Court on September 12, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa. South African Judge Thokosile Masipa has ruled out murder charges, but has left it to today to announce whether Oscar Pistorius is guilty of culpable homicide, as the six month trial of the Olympic double-amputee sprinter comes to an end. His defence maintained that Mr Pistorius mistook Ms Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder in his home when he fired several shots into his bathroom allegedly in self-defence but killing his girlfriend. (Photo by Alon Skuy/The Times-Pool/Gallo Image/Getty Images)
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 12: (BY COURT ORDER, THIS IMAGE IS FREE TO USE) Oscar Pistorius takes his seat during his trial at the Pretoria High Court on September 12, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa. South African Judge Thokosile Masipa has ruled out murder charges, but has left it to today to announce whether Oscar Pistorius is guilty of culpable homicide, as the six month trial of the Olympic double-amputee sprinter comes to an end. His defence maintained that Mr Pistorius mistook Ms Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder in his home when he fired several shots into his bathroom allegedly in self-defence but killing his girlfriend. (Photo by Alon Skuy/The Times-Pool/Gallo Image/Getty Images)
BY COURT ORDER, THIS IMAGE IS FREE TO USE. PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 12: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT) Oscar Pistorius at the Pretoria High Court on September 12, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistorius, stands accused of the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on February 14, 2013. This is his' official trial, the result of which will determine the paralympian athlete's fate. Judge Masipa continues to deliver her verdict. (Photo by Alon Skuy/The Times/Gallo Image/Getty Images)
BY COURT ORDER, THIS IMAGE IS FREE TO USE. PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 12: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT) Oscar Pistorius at the Pretoria High Court on September 12, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistorius, stands accused of the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on February 14, 2013. This is his' official trial, the result of which will determine the paralympian athlete's fate. Judge Masipa continues to deliver her verdict. (Photo by Alon Skuy/The Times/Gallo Image/Getty Images)
BY COURT ORDER, THIS IMAGE IS FREE TO USE. PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 12: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT) Henke Pistorius at the Pretoria High Court on September 12, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistorius, stands accused of the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on February 14, 2013. This is his' official trial, the result of which will determine the paralympian athlete's fate. Judge Masipa continues to deliver her verdict. (Photo by Alon Skuy/The Times/Gallo Image/Getty Images)
BY COURT ORDER, THIS IMAGE IS FREE TO USE. PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 12: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT) Advocate Barry Roux at the Pretoria High Court on September 12, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistorius, stands accused of the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on February 14, 2013. This is his' official trial, the result of which will determine the paralympian athlete's fate. Judge Masipa continues to deliver her verdict. (Photo by Alon Skuy/The Times/Gallo Image/Getty Images)
BY COURT ORDER, THIS IMAGE IS FREE TO USE. PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 12: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT) Oscar Pistorius at the Pretoria High Court on September 12, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistorius, stands accused of the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on February 14, 2013. This is his' official trial, the result of which will determine the paralympian athlete's fate. Judge Masipa continues to deliver her verdict. (Photo by Alon Skuy/The Times/Gallo Image/Getty Images)
BY COURT ORDER, THIS IMAGE IS FREE TO USE. PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 12: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT) Reeva Steenkamp's family at the Pretoria High Court on September 12, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistorius, stands accused of the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on February 14, 2013. This is his' official trial, the result of which will determine the paralympian athlete's fate. Judge Masipa continues to deliver her verdict. (Photo by Alon Skuy/The Times/Gallo Image/Getty Images)
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 12: (BY COURT ORDER, THIS IMAGE IS FREE TO USE) Oscar Pistorius is watched as he takes his seat during his trial at the Pretoria High Court on September 12, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa. South African Judge Thokosile Masipa has ruled out murder charges, but has left it to today to announce whether Oscar Pistorius is guilty of culpable homicide, as the six month trial of the Olympic double-amputee sprinter comes to an end. His defence maintained that Mr Pistorius mistook Ms Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder in his home when he fired several shots into his bathroom allegedly in self-defence but killing his girlfriend. (Photo by Alon Skuy/The Times/Gallo Image/Getty Images)
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 12: (BY COURT ORDER, THIS IMAGE IS FREE TO USE) Oscar Pistorius takes his seat during his trial at the Pretoria High Court on September 12, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa. South African Judge Thokosile Masipa has ruled out murder charges, but has left it to today to announce whether Oscar Pistorius is guilty of culpable homicide, as the six month trial of the Olympic double-amputee sprinter comes to an end. His defence maintained that Mr Pistorius mistook Ms Reeva Steenkamp for an intruder in his home when he fired several shots into his bathroom allegedly in self-defence but killing his girlfriend. (Photo by Alon Skuy/The Times/Gallo Image/Getty Images)
BY COURT ORDER, THIS IMAGE IS FREE TO USE. PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 12: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT) Oscar Pistorius at the Pretoria High Court on September 12, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistorius, stands accused of the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on February 14, 2013. This is his' official trial, the result of which will determine the paralympian athlete's fate. Judge Masipa continues to deliver her verdict. (Photo by Alon Skuy/The Times/Gallo Image/Getty Images)
BY COURT ORDER, THIS IMAGE IS FREE TO USE. PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 12: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT) Judge Thokozile Masipa at the Pretoria High Court at the Pretoria High Court on September 12, 2014, in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistorius, stands accused of the murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on February 14, 2013. This is his' official trial, the result of which will determine the paralympian athlete's fate. Judge Masipa continues to deliver her verdict. (Photo by Alon Skuy/The Times/Gallo Image/Getty Images)
SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 2: South African Paralympic runner Oscar Pistorius and his girlfriend Jenna Edkins (L) on December 2, 2008 in South Africa. (Photo by Naranda Nell/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED, SOUTH AFRICA - AUGUST 22: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT) South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius poses with his girlfriend Jenna Edkins on August 22, 2008 in South Africa. (Photo by Nardus Engelbrecht Beeld/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED, SOUTH AFRICA - AUGUST 22: (SOUTH AFRICA OUT) South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius poses with his girlfriend Jenna Edkins on August 22, 2008 in South Africa. (Photo by Nardus Engelbrecht Beeld/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
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