Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A judge has sentenced a man to 40 years in prison for shooting and paralyzing a University of South Carolina student in Columbia's Five Points nearly two years ago.
Circuit Court Judge Robert Hood imposed the penalty against Michael Juan Smith just before 8 p.m. Monday. That sentence included 30 years for attempted murder, and two separate consecutive five year sentences on weapons-related charges.
Smith will get credit for the 674 days he's already served; however, after he's spent his time in state prison, he will then have to serve a 10 year federal sentence for a weapons charge, which he plead guilty to last year in connection with the case.
Earlier in the evening, it took the jury comprised of 11 women and one man a little over an hour to find Smith guilty of all the charges against him.
Moments after the verdict was read, Childress, who was in court, wiped away tears and received a hug.
Smith shot Childress back in October of 2013 while she was waiting for a cab in Five Points, one of the city's main entertainment districts. The injury left her paralyzed from the waist down, and the lengthy time she spent in the hospital and a rehabilitation center caused her to miss the rest of her freshman year in college. She returned to class the following year.
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Smith initially wasn't supposed to testify in his trial, but in a reversal, he took the witness stand just hours before the jury got the case. His testimony, however, didn't sway jurors.
Childress was shot by accident, with Smith admitting on the witness stand that he was trying to shoot someone else. But he and his defense claimed that he fired in self-defense after another man tried to shoot him. In their presentation to the court, his attorneys pointed to a piece of surveillance footage that they said showed the flash of another gun going off that night.
Prosecutors, though, said there was no evidence any gun was fired other than the weapon that was eventually recovered from Smith, and said the flash was caused by a cigarette lighter.
During the trial, jurors also heard jailhouse telephone recordings, and a witness who said Smith referred to Childress in derogatory terms when discussing the case, questioning why the media was showing her so much sympathy. When asked about one conversation that appeared to show him trying to direct a witness how to testify, Smith admitted making the remarks, but said he never threatened anyone.