Oscar Pistorius released from prison, awaits Nov. trial (+video)
Pistorius was acquitted of murder last year for the Valentine's Day shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, but prosecutors have appealed the trial verdict, and will seek a murder conviction again at South Africa's Supreme Court on Nov. 3.
Johannesburg — Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee Olympic runner who fatally shot his girlfriend in 2013, was released from prison and placed under house arrest on Monday night, a South African official said.
"Oscar Pistorius was placed under correctional supervision tonight," Manelisi Wolela, a spokesman for South Africa's correctional services department, said in a cellphone text message sent to journalists.
Wolela cited officials at Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre, a prison in the South African capital of Pretoria where Pistorius had served nearly a year of his five-year sentence for manslaughter.
The correctional services department had originally said Pistorius would be released from the Pretoria jail on Tuesday in line with a decision by a parole board at the prison.
"The handling of the actual placement is an operational matter of the local management, and how they handle it is their prerogative that is carried out in the best interest of all parties concerned, the victims, the offender and the Department of Correction Services," Wolela said in a second text message.
The murder trial of Pistorius generated intense international interest, and the surprising decision to release Pistorius a day early, and at night, appeared to have avoided the logistical challenges and spectacle associated with a large gathering of TV crews and other journalists hoping to catch a glimpse of Pistorius on the way out of prison.
While out on bail during his trial, the 28-year-old Pistorius had stayed at his uncle's mansion in an upmarket suburb of Pretoria. However, an Associated Press journalist outside the house said no one had gone in or out of the main entrance of the house on Monday night.
Under South African law, an offender sentenced to five years or less in jail can be released after serving one-sixth of the term — in Pistorius' case 10 months.
Pistorius was acquitted of murder last year for the Valentine's Day shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, but prosecutors have appealed the trial verdict of culpable homicide, or manslaughter, and will seek a murder conviction again at South Africa's Supreme Court on Nov. 3.
If Pistorius is convicted of murder by a panel of five judges at the appeal, he faces going back to prison for 15 years, the minimum sentence for murder in South Africa, which no longer has the death penalty.
Pistorius has maintained he thought Steenkamp was an intruder in his Pretoria home and killed her by mistake. Prosecutors said he shot her intentionally during an argument after she had fled to a bathroom stall.
While under house arrest, Pistorius will have to live under certain conditions until his sentence ends on Oct. 20, 2019. Pistorius will have to continue receiving psychotherapy and cannot handle any firearms, the corrections department previously said.
Wolela, the correctional services department spokesman, had not ruled out ultimately allowing Pistorius to return to training. He also said Pistorius would not be required to wear an electronic tagging device.
Pistorius, known as "Blade Runner" for his carbon-fiber running blades, gained worldwide fame when he ran against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 London Olympics, the first amputee runner to compete at the games.