Oscar Pistorius was unemotional as he was driven away today in a police van to begin a five year prison term for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, but the paralympic champion could spend less than a year behind bars.
Pistorius' demeanor was in contrast to his behavior during much of the trial when he cried, sobbed loudly and vomited in response to testimony about the Valentine's Day shooting in 2013. He was convicted last month of culpable homicide, the equivalent of manslaughter in the U.S.
Judge Thokozile Masipa kept the courtroom in suspense for more than an hour today before announcing her sentence, declaring that the sentence has to balance issues such as retribution, restorative justice, rehabilitation and the interest of society.
She rejected the defense's argument that Pistorius should be sentenced to house arrest because of his grief and his disability. His legs were amputated below the knee when he was 11 months old, and he later became known worldwide as the Blade Runner for his speed on his running prosthetics.
"I heard witness after witness overemphasizing the accused's vulnerability," the judge said. "Yes, the accused is vulnerable, but he also has excellent coping skills. He really saw himself as disabled [but] worked hard and became respected worldwide."
"A noncustodial sentence would send the wrong message to the community. But a long sentence would also not be appropriate because it would lack mercy," she said.
Masipa also said Pistorius has had an enormous impact on society.
"He gave his time and money to charities and changed the public's perception of disabled people. This cannot be ignored and ought to be put into perspective," Masipa said.
The judge gave Pistorius a suspended sentence of three years for a weapons charge.
Pistorius, 27, was unemotional as he stood with his hands clasped in front of him while Masipa delivered her sentence. He will be eligible for a sentence conversion after serving one-sixth of his sentence, meaning his sentence could be changed to house arrest after 10 months.
Pistorius was led to the court's holding cells today after court adjourned and later taken to Kgosi Mampuru II Prison in Pretoria in a police van with barred windows.
Prison officials examined Pistorius and decided he would be held in the prison's hospital wing because his notoriety and disability could put him at risk of attack.
"An assessment of Mr. Pistorius' disability has been made, in accordance with procedure, and he is being held in the hospital section, as the court was assured last week," department spokesman Ofentse Morwane said.
The prison's area commissioner, Zebilon Monama, said the hospital now holds two offenders with prosthetic legs, two blind offenders and five offenders in wheelchairs.
Steenkamp's parents were in court to hear the sentence. Her mother, June Steenkamp, who has been in court for almost every day of the trial, said justice had been served, but they do not have closure.
"We'll never have closure unless [you] can bring Reeva back," June Steenkamp said.
Pistorius' uncle, Arnold Pistorius, said, "Oscar will embrace this opportunity to pay back to society."
Oscar Pistorius never denied shooting his model-girlfriend but said it was a case of mistaken identity. He said he fired four times through a locked bathroom door in the middle of the night because he thought there was an intruder in his house.
The defense has already indicated that it would not appeal the sentence or conviction, and the state has 14 days to indicate whether it will file an appeal.