Columbia, SC (WLTX) The man accused of firing into a crowd in Columbia's Five Points area last October, hitting USC student Martha Childress, was sentenced Friday to 10 years in federal prison for being a felon in possession of a gun. Michael Juan Smith, 21, is still facing state charges for the shooting, which left Childress paralyzed from the waist down.
Smith's lawyer argued that the shooting was in self-defense, because a woman with Smith said that another man had a gun and had lifted his shirt to show it.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacey Haynes says, "The government was able to prove to Judge Anderson in court that that was not the case, that there was no true evidence in the record from anyone, either presented by Mr. Smith in his defense or by any of the other witnesses, that there was an actual gun seen by these other individuals."
She said shooting into a crowded area like Five Points isn't justified just because someone says someone else has a gun.
Childress and her family were in the courtroom. Smith apologized to her and her family, saying he didn't intend for the shooting to happen.
His mother, Juanita Smith, told Judge Joseph Anderson, Jr., that Michael had been raised in a good Christian family and that the shooting was not like him at all.
But Haynes read transcripts of recorded phone calls that Smith made to family members while he was in jail, in which he said the charges against him weren't a big deal but it was the media making them a big deal "because the girl is white."
He also said in a call, "I didn't try to shoot that d*** b****."
Haynes also pointed out that Smith was a known gang member with previous felony convictions for burglary, and that he had stolen the gun he used in Five Points.
Jim Carpenter, Martha's uncle, said after the sentencing, "We're very pleased with the professionalism and we want to congratulate the U.S. Attorney's office on the results they achieved today. We're very pleased with that, very pleased with their work overall."
He said the family wouldn't comment beyond that because the state case against Smith for the shooting still has to go to trial.
Smith will serve any prison time he gets in the state case first and then would serve 10 more years in federal prison after that.