A veteran Los Angeles police officer was sentenced Thursday to 16 months in jail after authorities said she kicked and struck a handcuffed woman who later died.
Mary O'Callaghan, 50, was sentenced to the maximum three years in jail. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta suspended the last 20 months of the term, meaning O’Callaghan could be released within five months with good behavior, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Defense attorney Robert Rico said he and O'Callaghan were disappointed by the sentence and planned to file an appeal.
In June, O'Callaghan was found guilty of assault under color of authority during the 2012 arrest of 35-year-old Alesia Thomas, a mother of two.
Thomas needed help, "but what she got was violence," prosecutor Shannon Presby told the court.
O'Callaghan apologized to Sandra Thomas, the dead woman’s mother before sentencing.
“Mother to mother,” O'Callaghan, a 50-year-old mother of three, said through tears, according to the Times, “I am extremely sorry for the loss of your daughter.”
Those were O’Callaghan’s first public comments on the case.
O'Callaghan, an 18-year veteran of the LAPD, was relieved of duty following an investigation into the death. Felony assault charges were filed against her in 2013.
O'Callaghan was not charged in connection with the death. An autopsy found Thomas had cocaine in her system, but the cause of death was listed as undetermined.
The trial came amid increasing scrutiny across the nation over police treatment of minorities after police have been involved in the deaths of several unarmed black people including Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner. None of the officers involved in those cases have been charged.
An attorney for O'Callaghan, an 18-year police veteran who has served in the U.S. armed forces, had asked for probation and no jail time. She had faced a possible maximum sentence of three years in prison.
Prosecutors asked the judge to impose a six-month jail sentence, less than what the judge decided to hand down.
A police spokesman said O'Callaghan, is still employed as an officer. He declined to discuss any further details about possible discipline she may face.
"It should be clear to everyone that the LAPD and the criminal justice system will hold officers accountable for their actions when they operate outside the law," Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement.
Al Jazeera with The Associated Press