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Soldier to be sentenced for murder in Texas protest shooting

FILE - This booking photo provided by the Austin, Texas, Police Department shows U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Perry. A Texas judge on Wednesday, May 3, 2023, denied a request for a new trial for the U.S. Army sergeant convicted of killing an armed protester during a Black Lives Matter march, and sent sentencing in the case for Tuesday, May 9. (Austin Police Department via AP, File)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A U.S. Army sergeant convicted of murder in the shooting death of an armed protester in a Black Lives Matter march in Texas faces up to life in prison when his sentencing hearing begins Tuesday, even as Gov. Greg Abbott presses for the chance to pardon the soldier.

Sentencing for Daniel Perry is scheduled to last up to two days. State District Judge Clifford Brown, who presided over Perry’s trial, last week denied his request for a new trial.

Perry, who was working as a ride-share driver the night of the shooting, was convicted in April in the 2020 shooting of 28-year-old Garrett Foster, who was legally carrying an AK-47 rifle through downtown Austin during a summer of nationwide unrest over police killings and racial injustice.

The verdict prompted outrage from prominent conservatives including former Fox News star Tucker Carlson, who called the shooting an act of self-defense and criticized Abbott on the air after he didn’t come on his show.

Abbott, a former judge who has not ruled out a 2024 presidential run, tweeted the next day that “Texas has one of the strongest ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws” and that he looked forward to signing a pardon once a recommendation from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles hits his desk.

The board has already begun what legal experts say is a highly unusual and immediate review of the case on the orders of Abbott, who appointed the panel.

The governor has not said publicly how he came to his conclusion. It is not clear when the parole board will reach a decision on Perry’s case.

Perry served in the military for more than a decade and was stationed at Fort Hood, about 70 miles (110 kilometers) north of Austin. He had just dropped off a ride-share customer when he turned onto a street filled with protesters.

Perry said he was trying to get past the crowd blocking the street when Foster pointed a rifle at him. Perry said he fired at Foster in self-defense. Witnesses testified that they did not see Foster raise his weapon, and prosecutors argued that Perry could have driven away without shooting.

After the trial, the court unsealed dozens of pages of text messages and social media posts that showed Perry having hostile views toward Black Lives Matter protests. In a comment on Facebook a month before the shooting, Perry allegedly wrote, “It is official I am a racist because I do not agree with people acting like animals at the zoo.”