Pistorius free on bail after manslaughter conviction

Oscar Pistroius
Oscar Pistroius AP

Oscar Pistorius, the Paralympic gold medalist, was freed on bail after he was convicted of manslaughter for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp and of firing a gun in a crowded restaurant.

Judge Thokozile Masipa extended his bail of 1 million rand ($91,000) at the High Court in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, and scheduled his sentencing hearing to start on Oct. 13. His punishment for culpable homicide, or manslaughter, could range from a fine to a prison sentence of as many as 15 years.

“The accused acted negligently when he fired shots into the toilet door knowing that there was someone behind the door and that there was very little room in which to maneuver,” Masipa said. “A reasonable person therefore in the position of the accused with similar disability would have foreseen the possibility that whoever was behind the door might be killed by the shots.”

Known as the Blade Runner because of his J-shaped prosthetic running blades, Pistorius was the first double amputee to compete in the Olympics. The charges have derailed the running career of the winner of six Paralympic gold medals and cost Pistorius sponsorship deals with Nike Inc. and Luxottica Group SpA’s Oakley.

Masipa acquitted Pistorius on charges of murder and two gun-related offenses.

“Probably you’re looking at three to four years, but it’s very difficult to predict as one will have to wait to see what arguments both sides come up with,” Ulrich Roux, a director at Johannesburg-based BDK Attorneys, said by phone.

The state may appeal the verdict by arguing that Masipa misinterpreted the law on the charge of “dolus eventualis,” or murder, Stephen Tuson, an adjunct professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said by phone.

“The state may well wish to take the verdict on the murder charge on appeal,” he said. “They’re going to have to demonstrate to an appeal court that there was an error of law by the judge in her interpretation of what the law dolus eventualis is.”

The National Prosecuting Authority is “disappointed” with the verdict and will consider its options after the sentencing, NPA spokesman Nathi Mncube told Johannesburg-based eCNA television. The agency is responsible for deciding whether or not to appeal the judgment.