Prosecutors will seek the maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for South African Olympian Oscar Pistorius in the killing of his girlfriend, even as a government social worker Monday recommended three years of house arrest, allowing for the possibility of his resuming his athletic career.
A spokesman for the National Prosecuting Authority, Nathi Mncube, said the state would call on Judge Thokozile Masipa to hand down the maximum sentence because the punishment should match the severity of the crime. Pistorius was acquitted of murder last month but found guilty of culpable homicide, or negligent killing.
Recent motor accident cases involving negligence and multiple deaths have seen sentences of about eight years. Prisoners normally become eligible for parole about halfway through their term.
The double-amputee athlete, who had extensive weapons training, fired four expanding bullets, designed to exact maximum tissue damage, through the door of an enclosed toilet in his home last year, killing model Reeva Steenkamp. He said he believed she was an intruder or intruders, and fired after hearing a noise in the bathroom, a story accepted by Masipa as reasonable.
Masipa found that the prosecution failed to prove that Pistorius intended to kill Steenkamp.
The defense Monday called a social worker with the Department of Correctional Services, Joel Maringa, who recommended that Pistorius serve three years of house arrest while performing 16 hours of community service a month, including cleaning a museum.
Maringa told the court that Pistorius said he wanted to resume his athletic career, train and attend track and field events during any sentence. Prosecutor Gerrie Nel described the recommendation as “shockingly inappropriate.”
Maringa said he based his recommendation on the fact that Pistorius never intended to fire, a finding at odds with Masipa’s judgment that he did intend to do so. Nel said the basis of Maringa’s recommendation was wrong and that the social worker hadn’t assessed the seriousness of the crime.
Masipa is due to deliver her sentence after hearing one more defense witness and at least two prosecution witnesses. She could imprison Pistorius; give him a suspended sentence under certain conditions — for example, house arrest; or let him off with a fine.
Pistorius’ therapist, Lore Hartzenberg, who has seen him regularly since shortly after the killing, said sometimes in therapy sessions she would simply hold him as he wept. At other times he would retch at the memories of the shooting.
She said the athlete was “a broken man.” The losses he had suffered because he killed Steenkamp were “incalculable and cannot be quantified.”
“I can confirm his remorse and pain to be genuine,” Hartzenberg said. “He has lost his love relationship with Ms. Steenkamp. He has lost his moral and professional reputation. He’s lost his friends. He’s lost his career.”
Hartzenberg said Pistorius never had an opportunity to grieve over Steenkamp because of his trial and intense media focus. He remained “in an unresolved spiral of grief.”
He had gone from being an international sporting icon to a figure vilified on social media, she said, which had damaged his sense of self-worth to the extent he might never recover.
Hartzenberg said she wept in court when Pistorius was asked to remove his artificial legs.
Nel suggested that Pistorius would be able to resume his career and would be able to love again. He cited news reports that the athlete had found a new girlfriend — something Hartzenberg said she never discussed with the athlete.
Pistorius’ agent, Peet van Zyl, told the court his client’s sponsors indicated after the culpable homicide finding that they would terminate their deals.
“I can categorically state that all of his contracts have been terminated,” Van Zyl said. He said any decision about Pistorius resuming his career would have to await his sentencing.