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Jury convicts man in 1970 Minnesota cop killing

The Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn.- A jury on Wednesday convicted a man in the shooting death of a police officer nearly 36 years ago, and the judge sentenced him to life in prison.

After 10 hours of deliberations, the jury found Ronald Reed, 55, of Chicago, guilty of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder.

Prosecutors alleged that Reed and co-defendant Larry Clark, who are black, wanted to impress the national leadership of the Black Panther movement by killing a white police officer. The men were involved with a local group of young militants and wanted to establish a chapter of the Black Panthers here, authorities said.

Prosecutor Susan Hudson told jurors Reed set up the "cold-blooded assassination" of Officer James T. Sackett, who was shot while responding to a fake call about a pregnant woman in labor on May 22, 1970.

Judge Gregg Johnson sentenced Reed to life in prison. Because the sentencing laws that were in place in 1970 apply, he could be eligible for parole in 17 1/2 years.

Reed called the verdict an "unjust conviction," but added, "if it brings consolation and closure to the Sackett family and officer Sackett's legacy, I accept the consequences gladly and without malice to anyone."

Clark, 54, is scheduled to face trial on the same charges in April.

Sackett was a 27-year-old married father of four who had been on the force for 18 months.

Police Chief John Harrington sat near Sackett's family as the verdict was announced. City Council member Dan Bostrom, a former police officer who was working the night Sackett was killed, broke down in tears, and Mayor Chris Coleman put his arm around him.

"We're happy this chapter is closed," Coleman said.

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