Pistorius granted parole, will be released from prison on Jan. 5
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Double-amputee Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius was granted parole on Friday, more than a decade after shooting his girlfriend through a toilet door at his home in South Africa in a killing that jolted the world.
He will be released from prison on Jan. 5, but will be constantly monitored by parole officials for five years until his sentence expires, the Department of Corrections said.
Pistorius' parole will come with other conditions, Department of Corrections spokesman Singabakho Nxumalo said outside of the prison where Pistorius has been incarcerated in the South African capital, Pretoria, for killing Reeva Steenkamp.
Pistorius won't be allowed to leave the area of Pretoria where he is set to live without permission from authorities. He will also attend a program to deal with anger issues and another program on violence against women. He will have to perform community service.
“Parole does not mean the end of the sentence. It is still part of the sentence. It only means the inmate will complete the sentence outside a correctional facility,” Nxumalo said. “What will happen is that Mr. Pistorius will be allocated a monitoring official. This official will work with him until his sentence expires.”
Nxumalo said the monitoring official would need to be notified of any major events in Pistorius' life, including if he wants to move to another home or get a job.
“We have to be informed of each and every activity,” Nxumalo said.
Pistorius won't wear a monitoring bracelet as that is not part of South African parole procedure, Nxumalo said. Pistorius' sentence will expire on Dec. 5, 2029.
The decision to grant parole was made at a hearing at the prison earlier Friday.
Pistorius, who turned 37 this week, has been in jail since late 2014 for the Valentine’s Day 2013 killing of model Steenkamp, although he was released for a period of house arrest in 2015 while one of the numerous appeals in his case was heard. He was ultimately convicted of murder and sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison.
Serious offenders in South Africa must serve at least half of their sentence to be eligible for parole, which Pistorius has done.
Pistorius was at the height of his fame and one of the world’s most admired athletes when he killed Steenkamp. He shot her multiple times in the bathroom of his Pretoria villa in the predawn hours with his licensed 9mm pistol.
Pistorius' parole hearing was his second in the space of eight months. He was wrongly ruled ineligible for early release at a first hearing in March. That was due to an error made by an appeals court over when the sentence officially started.
Pistorius was initially convicted of culpable homicide — a charge comparable to manslaughter — for killing Steenkamp. That conviction was overturned and he was convicted of murder after an appeal by prosecutors. They also appealed against an initial sentence of six years for murder, and Pistorius was ultimately sentenced to 13 years and five months in prison.
Pistorius testified at his murder trial that he killed Steenkamp by mistake when he fired four times through the door thinking she was a dangerous intruder hiding in his bathroom in the middle of the night. Prosecutors argued that Steenkamp, a 29-year-old model and reality TV star, had fled to the toilet cubicle during a late-night argument and Pistorius killed her in a rage.
Pistorius was eventually convicted of murder on a legal principle known as dolus eventualis, which means he acted with extreme recklessness and should have known that whoever was behind the door would likely be killed. It's comparable to third-degree murder.
Steenkamp’s father, Barry Steenkamp, died in September. Her mother, June Steenkamp, didn't oppose Pistorius’ parole, but said in a statement before the hearing that she didn't believe Pistorius had been fully rehabilitated and was still lying about the killing.
Rob Matthews, a South African man whose 21-year-old daughter was murdered in 2004 and who became a Steenkamp family friend, read out June Steenkamp's statement. She said she wasn't opposing Pistorius' parole and didn’t attend the hearing because “I simply cannot muster the energy to face him again at this stage.”
Nevertheless, “I do not believe Oscar’s version that he thought the person in the toilet was a burglar,” June Steenkamp said in the statement. “In fact, I do not know anybody who does. My dearest child screamed for her life. ... I believe he knew it was Reeva."
While out on parole, Pistorius is expected to live at his uncle's luxurious mansion in a wealthy Pretoria suburb, where he stayed during his murder trial.
Pistorius was first sent to Pretoria’s central prison, a notorious apartheid-era jail. He was moved to the city’s Atteridgeville Correctional Centre in 2016 and is set to be released from there in a little over a month, when the world will get its first public sight of him in nearly a decade.
There have been only occasional glimpses of Pistorius’ life behind bars. His father has said he has been holding Bible classes for fellow prisoners, while a criminologist who worked with him said he had been driving a tractor at a part of the prison where vegetables are grown.
Pistorius' lawyers have said he has been a “model prisoner.” There have been flashes of trouble, though, including an altercation Pistorius had with another inmate over a prison telephone that left him requiring medical treatment.
Pistorius killed Steenkamp just months after he had become the first double-amputee to compete at the Olympics. He was also a multiple Paralympic sprinting champion and one of sport's most marketable figures, having overcome the amputation of both his legs below the knee as a baby to run on specially designed carbon-fiber blades. He was known as the “Blade Runner.”
At his sensational trial, prosecutors argued that there was another side to Pistorius' life that involved guns and angry confrontations with others. Pistorius was also found guilty of a second charge of recklessly firing a gun in a restaurant.
Gerald Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa.
AP Africa news: https://apnews.com/hub/africa