Oscar Pistorius sentenced to 6 years in prison for murder

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PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee Olympian described by a judge as a “fallen hero,” was sentenced on Wednesday to six years in a South African prison for the murder of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, a ruling viewed by some as too lenient.

However, Judge Thokozile Masipa appeared to anticipate criticism of a jail term that fell far short of the normally mandated 15 years for murder under South African law, declaring: “Our courts are courts of law, not courts of public opinion.”

Pistorius, who shot Steenkamp through the door of a toilet cubicle in his home in 2013, was asked to stand and face Masipa as she announced his sentence in a wood-paneled courtroom in the South African capital, Pretoria. He was calm after the ruling, embracing his aunt and tearful sister before being led down a courtroom staircase to a holding cell ahead of being taken to prison.

Later, a convoy of police cars with lights flashing and sirens wailing left a side entrance of the courthouse. In the convoy was a van with tinted windows, possibly carrying Pistorius.

The sentencing was the latest act of a three-and-a-half year legal drama that has often played out on live television and shown the fall from grace of a runner once viewed as an inspiration to many for overcoming his disability. Both of Pistorius’ legs were amputated below the knees when he was 11 months old because of a congenital defect.

He made history by competing at the 2012 Olympics on his carbon-fiber running blades, and was one of the world’s most recognizable athletes.

“He’s a fallen hero, he has lost his career and he is ruined financially,” said Masipa, who originally convicted Pistorius of manslaughter, a ruling that was overturned by an appeals court that instead convicted him of murder and sent the case back to her for sentencing.

In explaining the sentence, Masipa said there are “substantial and compelling circumstances” to show leniency toward Pistorius because he is a “good candidate for rehabilitation,” is unlikely to commit another crime and had shown what appeared to be genuine remorse over Steenkamp’s death.

MORE: Pistorius timeline since London Olympics

Pistorius, 29, maintained he killed Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and reality TV star, by mistake thinking she was an intruder hiding in the bathroom early on Valentine’s Day 2013. Prosecutors alleged that he killed her intentionally after the couple argued.

Part of the difficulty for the judge in determining an appropriate sentence was that the Supreme Court convicted Pistorius of murder with “indirect intent.” Pistorius was found guilty because he knew someone might die — even an intruder — when he shot. As Masipa noted, the Supreme Court did not find that Pistorius knew he was firing at Steenkamp.

Pistorius will be eligible to apply for parole after three years, according to legal experts. Prosecutors, who had asked that he be sentenced to 15 years in prison, can appeal for a heavier sentence but have yet to comment on whether they will do so.

“The family accepts the judgment,” Anneliese Burgess, a spokeswoman for the Pistorius family, said outside the courthouse.

The Steenkamp family did not criticize the sentence. “The family has said it before they wanted the law to run its course. It has done so. No further comment. They will keep a dignified silence,” said Dup de Bruyn, the Steenkamp family representative.

Legal expert Marius du Toit described the sentence as “lenient but not wrong.”

Some people who gathered outside the courthouse were critical.

“The law didn’t take its course,” said Dukes Masanabo, a South African sports official who had hoped Pistorius would be sentenced to 10 to 12 years, not six.

He said the sentence is too light because Pistorius was sentenced to almost the same sentence — five years — for his earlier manslaughter conviction. He served one year of that sentence before being place under house arrest at his uncle’s mansion in Pretoria, and he had some freedom of movement outside the home during certain hours.

The time that Pistorius already served in prison is not subtracted from his new sentence, which may have contributed to the judge’s relatively lenient decision, say legal experts.

Another South African, Sarah Maete, said she wanted Pistorius to get the full 15 years in prison for murder.

“It’s not enough,” she said.

In delivering her sentence, Masipa referred to the difficulties she faced in deciding a sentence that “satisfies every relevant interest” in a case that captured the world’s attention and led to extremes of opinion over the celebrated athlete. She noted that Pistorius had fired four times — not once — through the closed toilet door and spoke of the devastating effect the crime had on Steenkamp’s family.

Ultimately, “mitigating circumstances outweigh the aggravating factors,” the judge said.

Steenkamp’s parents, Barry and June, were present in the courtroom, which was packed with relatives of both Pistorius and Steenkamp, journalists and other observers.

Pistorius’ defense lawyers had asked for no jail time at all, saying he should be allowed to do charity work with children.

Ulrich Roux, a South African lawyer and commentator who is not involved in the Pistorius case, said it had opened a window for South Africans into how their justice system works, including cross-examination and how a judge reaches a decision.

He said: “It’s been a huge learning curve for our society.”

MORE: After Trials, it’s Caster; U.S. women’s 800m team gets no break in Rio

2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup schedule, results

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The U.S. goes for its fourth consecutive title at the FIBA World Cup in Sydney — and eighth global gold in a row overall when including the Olympics.

A’ja Wilson, a two-time WNBA MVP, and Breanna Stewart, the Tokyo Olympic MVP, headline a U.S. roster that, for the first time since 2000, includes neither Sue Bird (retired) nor Diana Taurasi (injured).

The new-look team includes nobody over the age of 30 for the first time since 1994, before the U.S. began its dynasty at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The Americans have won 52 consecutive games between worlds and the Olympics dating to the 2006 Worlds bronze-medal game.

The field also includes host Australia, the U.S.’ former primary rival, and Olympic silver medalist Japan.

Nigeria, which played the U.S. the closest of any foe in Tokyo (losing by nine points), isn’t present after its federation withdrew the team over governance issues. Spain, ranked second in the world, failed to qualify.

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2022 FIBA Women’s World Cup Schedule, Results

Date Time (ET) Game Round
Wed., Sept. 21 8:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 82, Bosnia and Herzegovina 58 Group A
9:30 p.m. USA 87, Belgium 72 Group A
11 p.m. Canada 67, Serbia 60 Group B
Thurs., Sept. 22 12 a.m. Japan 89, Mali 56 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 107, South Korea 44 Group A
6:30 a.m. France 70, Australia 57 Group B
8:30 p.m. USA 106, Puerto Rico 42 Group A
10 p.m. Serbia 69, Japan 64 Group B
11 p.m. Belgium 84, South Korea 61 Group A
Fri., Sept. 23 12:30 a.m. China 98, Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 Group A
4 a.m. Canada 59, France 45 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 118, Mali 58 Group B
Sat., Sept. 24 12:30 a.m. USA 77, China 63 Group A
4 a.m. South Korea 99, Bosnia and Herzegovina 66 Group A
6:30 a.m. Belgium 68, Puerto Rico 65 Group A
Sun., Sept. 25 12:30 a.m. France 74, Mali 59 Group B
4 a.m. Australia 69, Serbia 54 Group B
6:30 a.m. Canada 70, Japan 56 Group B
9:30 p.m. Belgium 85, Bosnia and Herzegovina 55 Group A
11:30 p.m. Serbia 81, Mali 68 Group B
Mon., Sept. 26 12 a.m. USA 145, South Korea 69 Group A
2 a.m. France 67, Japan 53 Group B
3:30 a.m. China 95, Puerto Rico 60 Group A
6:30 a.m. Australia 75, Canada 72 Group B
9:30 p.m. Puerto Rico 92, South Korea 73 Group A
11:30 p.m. China 81, Belgium 55 Group A
Tues., Sept. 27 12 a.m. USA 121, Bosnia and Herzegovina 59 Group A
2 a.m. Canada 88, Mali 65 Group B
3:30 a.m. Serbia 68, France 62 Group B
6:30 a.m. Australia 71, Japan 54 Group B
Wed., Sept. 28 10 p.m. USA vs. Serbia Quarterfinals
Thurs., Sept. 29 12:30 a.m. Canada vs. Puerto Rico Quarterfinals
4 a.m. China vs. France Quarterfinals
6:30 a.m. Australia vs. Belgium Quarterfinals
Fri., Sept. 30 3 a.m. USA vs. Canada Semifinals
5:30 a.m. Australia vs. China Semifinals
11 p.m. Third-Place Game
Sat., Oct. 1 2 a.m. Final

U.S. into FIBA World Cup semifinals after trailing, triple-double watch

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SYDNEY — Alyssa Thomas and her United States teammates were tested for the first time in the World Cup by a physical Serbia team.

After a slow start, the Americans used a dominant run spanning the half to take control of the game and reach the semifinals again.

Thomas had 13 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists to help the U.S. beat Serbia 88-55 in the quarterfinals of the women’s World Cup on Thursday.

“I think you expect every team’s best punch in the first quarter,” Thomas said. “We just had to settle into the game and once we settled in, then we were really able to break away.”

Kelsey Plum scored 17 points and A’ja Wilson added 15 to lead the Americans (6-0) into the semifinals.

“They played super physical, more physical than we’ve seen the entire tournament,” Plum said. “Credit to them. I felt that early-on their pressure bothered us a little bit, but we were able to kind of get under control.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup Schedule, Results

The Americans had run through pool play, winning by 46.2 points per game and hadn’t faced any kind of challenge. Serbia (3-2) wasn’t afraid though, going right at the U.S. The Serbians scored the first basket of the game — marking the first time the Americans trailed in the tournament.

It was back-and-forth for the first 17 minutes, with the U.S. failing to go on any major run. Then, with 2:59 left in the half and the U.S. up by five, Kahleah Copper drove to the basket and was fouled. She landed hard on her hip and had to be helped off the court by the U.S. training staff. Copper, who has been a sparkplug for the U.S. in her first tournament, didn’t return.

“It’s too early to tell,” Reeve said of the extent of Copper’s injury. “We’re getting her some imaging and we’ll have information later.”

Plum replaced Cooper and hit the two free throws, starting a 12-0 run to close the half as the Americans led 50-33 at the break. Thomas had 13 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals in the opening 20 minutes.

The U.S. extended its run to 20 straight points in the third quarter before Serbia finally ended a nearly 8 1/2 minutes drought with a 3-pointer by Yvonne Anderson. That cut the deficit to 22 points. Serbia didn’t get much closer after that.

Anderson led Serbia with 14 points.

Betnijah Laney went down hard early in the fourth quarter on a put-back. She left the game and sat on the bench for the rest of the game.

“She took a hard fall,” Reeve said. “She was in the locker room afterwards and I think in her case it was a little more of it took the wind out of her.”

The victory was the 28th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals against Russia. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-86.

After going unbeaten in pool play again, the U.S. reached at least the semifinals for the 12th consecutive tournament, dating to 1975. That year completed a cycle in which the Americans lost 14 games combined in four tournaments. They’ve only lost five games since.

PICASSO IT WAS NOT

The U.S. had dominated the paint even without Brittney Griner, outscoring its opponents by an average of 60.8-24.4 in pool play. Serbia held a 20-16 advantage at the half and ended up outscoring the Americans 28-26 in the game by constantly having two or three players inside to clog up the middle.

“It’s one of those things you got to live with,” Wilson said. “Hopefully these next couple of games we can get back to owning the paint. Serbia did a great job of locking it down.

TRIPLE-DOUBLE WATCH

Thomas, who had a triple-double in each of the last two games in the WNBA Finals, fell just short again of getting the first one at the World Cup since Erika Dobrovicova in 1994 for the Slovak Republic against Spain. Assists and rebounds weren’t kept before 1994. Thomas had 14 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in the opener against Belgium.

TIP-INS

Jewell Loyd returned to the U.S. starting lineup a game after resting according to the team. She had eight points.

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