PRETORIA, South Africa - Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius was loaded into an armored van and taken to prison on Tuesday after a judge sentenced him to five years for the Valentine’s Day killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
Judge Thokozile Masipa said the sentence, which followed the athlete's conviction for culpable homicide, was "fair and just both to society and to the accused."
The so-called "Blade Runner" - who also was handed a three-year suspended sentence for a firearms offense - showed little emotion but wiped a tear from his eye after the ruling. He then was led down to a holding cell for the first time, having spent the duration of his trial on bail, and later loaded into an armored police van for the journey to prison.
Steenkamp's parents told reporters outside the court they were happy with the sentence. "I'm just glad it's all over," said her father, Barry. “Justice was served today,” added Dup de Bruyn, the Steenkamp's lawyer.
Defense lawyer Barry Roux said he expects Pistorius to serve one sixth of his sentence in prison - about 10 months - before applying to spend the rest of the sentence under house arrest.
But even if he is released under supervision, Pistorius will be barred from involvement in Paralympic events - including the 2016 games in Rio - until he has completed his sentence, Paralympic officials told NBC Sports.
The maximum prison sentence for culpable homicide in South Africa is 15 years. However, Masipa could have given Pistorius a suspended sentence to be served at home under state supervision - a sort of house arrest.
Pistorius' uncle, Arnold, urged South Africans to accept the ruling and appealed to the media for privacy. "It has been a harrowing 20 months. We are all emotionally drained and exhausted," he said after the sentencing. "I hope Oscar will start his own healing process as he walks down the path of restoration. As a family we are ready to support and guide Oscar as he serves his sentence."
Pistorius' brother, Carl, also posted a picture of the siblings together on Twitter, saying: "Together in Christ we are strong."
In her ruling, Masipa recounted the impact of the shooting on Reeva's family and on the athlete, who has since sold all his property and has no money left.
She also rejected evidence from defense witnesses about Pistorius' weakness. “There was a feeling of unease on my part as I listened to one witness after another placing what I thought was an overemphasis on the accused’s vulnerability," Masipa said.
"Yes, the accused is vulnerable. But he also has excellent coping skills. Thanks to his mother, he rarely saw himself as disabled and excelled as a top athlete.” Still, she noted that Pistorius had inspired people with disabilities worldwide. "This cannot be ignored," she said.
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