Michael Bishop (Courier-Journal file photo)
Louisville, KY (written by Mark Vanderhof/The Courier-Journal) -- A man who was charged with shooting a 12-year-old boy who was playing a game with other children in which they rang doorbells and ran, was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison after acknowledging there was enough evidence to convict him.
Michael Bishop, 57, was charged after a June 13, 2011, incident in which Jacob Eberle, 12, was shot as he and several other children in the neighborhood were running from Bishop's house.
Bishop entered an Alford plea, meaning he did not admit guilt but conceded prosecutors would likely win at trial.
"I apologize from the bottom of my heart for what happened," Bishop said in Jefferson Circuit Court.
The children were apparently playing a game commonly known as "ding dong ditch," in which they ran up to people's homes, rang the doorbell or knocked, and then ran away. Louisville Metro Police said Bishop came out on his porch with a shotgun and fired at the children, striking Jacob in the back. Jacob spent several days at Kosair Children's Hospital.
Bishop told police he was "scared and confused" as he grabbed the shotgun after hearing a noise outside and hoped only to scare away what he thought was a burglar.
Bishop had been released on bond but was barred from any contact with the boy and his family or the children who witnessed the shooting and their parents. He also could not drink alcohol.
Bishop had pleaded not guilty to charges of assault, wanton endangerment and tampering with physical evidence.
The most serious charge, first-degree assault, carried up to 20 years in prison. In exchange for a guilty plea, it was changed to assault under extreme emotional disturbance, which carries the lesser maximum sentence of up to five years. Including the other two charges, 10 years was the maximum Bishop faced.
Bishop, who spoke briefly, made a motion for probation.
But prosecutor Leland Hulbert opposed probation and said Bishop should have entered a straight guilty plea instead of an Alford plea.
"This case is millimeters from a homicide," he said. "The hundred pellets that are in Jacob, he has to live with that for the rest of his life."
Judge A.C. McKay Chauvin said Bishop had led a "blameless, productive life up until that night" and doubted Bishop would ever be in trouble with the law again were he placed on probation. He said he believed Bishop did not intend to hit any of the boys, and only wanted to teach them "an object lesson."
Still, Chauvin said, the seriousness of the offense required some prison time.
"A blameless life is not enough to balance the seriousness of this event," he said, adding that Bishop could have "cured cancer" and still not have balanced the score.