Oscar Pistorius released on $113,000 bail
South African Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius has been granted bail as he awaits trial in the Feb. 14 shooting death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.
After an explanation of his reasoning that went on for 105 minutes, Judge Desmond Nair said he took into account the degree of violence in the crime, the possible threat that Pistorius presented to others, and the possibility that he might attempt to flee and evade trial.
Nair said he wasn’t presented with enough evidence to conclude that Pistorius, 26, was either a flight risk or a risk to the public, or that releasing him would lead to public outrage.
Because of the seriousness of the murder charge, the onus had been on Pistorius' defence to show why he should be freed. Nair said Pistorius' affidavit, in which he gave his version of the events of the shooting, had helped his application for bail in Pretoria Magistrate's Court.
"That reaching out in the affidavit, the way that he did, placing it before the court," Nair said. "I come to the conclusion that the accused has made a case to be released on bail."
Pistorius must post a bail of 1 million rand or about US$113,000. He also faces a number of bail conditions, including provisions that he report to local police station twice a week, inform authorities if he is leaving Pretoria, surrender his passport, hand over his firearms, and avoid the house where Steenkamp was killed.
The Pistorius family quickly issued a statement on his official website, saying they were relieved by the decision.
“Although we are obviously relieved that Oscar has been granted bail, this is still a very sad time for the family of Reeva and for us," they wrote. "We are grateful that the Magistrate recognised the validity and strength of our application. As the family, we are convinced that Oscar’s version of what happened on that terrible night will prove to be true."
Pistorius, who broke down in sobs several times early in the reading of the ruling, is facing a charge of premeditated murder. During the four-day bail hearing, the prosecution vehemently opposed Pistorius' release, insisting they were in the process of building a strong case against the double-amputee. Pistorius' defence lawyer, Barry Roux, argued his client’s fame precluded any ability to flee.
The prosecution alleges that Pistorius shot his girlfriend of three months as she cowered in a bathroom after a heated argument in the early hours of Valentine's Day.
In his sworn affidavit, Pistorius said he accidentally shot Steenkamp, thinking she was an intruder lurking in the toilet stall in the bathroom off his bedroom. He contended he was acting in self-defence and panicked when he was unable to quickly attach his limbs. He said he grabbed a 9-mm pistol from under his pillow and fired four shots into the locked door of the toilet.
Steenkamp suffered gunshot wounds to her head, hip and arm.
Prosecutors refuted that version of events and suggested he planned the killing as soon as Steenkamp locked herself in the bathroom. They sought to portray Pistorius as a spoiled celebrity with an inflated sense of self who believed he was above the law.
Court documents reveal Pistorius’s assets
In an affidavit presented to court after he was charged, Pistorius listed his annual income at approximately 5.6 million rand, or US$631,000. The athlete stated in the affidavit that he owns three houses and a vacant plot in South Africa which combined are worth approximately US$936,000. The house that he lives in and where the shooting took place was pegged at five million rand, or US$563,000.
His “movable” assets, including furniture, cars and jewelry, are worth in excess of $56,000, he says, while cash investments in various banks in the country total approximately $112,000.
His next court appearance will come on June 4. The full trial is unlikely to start for several months.
Pistorius faces life in prison if convicted.
With Files from The Associated Press