A federal jury convicts white police officers Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell of violating the civil rights of Black motorist Rodney King.
1993 (Apr 17)
In Los Angeles, California, a federal jury convicted white police officers Stacey Koon and Laurence Powell of violating the civil rights of Black motorist Rodney King. Two other officers—Theodore Briseno and Timothy Wind—were acquitted. While the verdicts in the officers' criminal trial a year earlier had sparked several days of deadly rioting, the verdicts in their federal trial were met with joy and relief. Los Angeles remained calm, as did other cities across the nation. Police and National Guard troops had been on alert for days in anticipation of violence as jurors worked to reach a decision. On August 4, 1993, a judge handed down his sentences in the case. Both Koon and Powell received thirty months in prison, several years less than most observers had anticipated. The judge explained that he had chosen a lighter punishment because King's behavior had provoked police and because the two officers already had endured the loss of their jobs and a tremendous amount of notoriety. He also speculated that they faced the possibility of abuse in prison. Blacks reacted to the sentences with anger and disbelief. They felt justice still had not been served in the case.