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35 Years Term For Martinsville School Shooter

Phelps will spend 5 of those years on probation, and has been ordered to never have contact with his victim again.

Michael Phelps, the 16 year old convicted of trying to kill a schoolmate at Martinsville West Middle School in March, has been sentenced to 35 years in the criminal justice system.

The standard sentence for an A felony is 30 years, and that’s the amount of prison time Judge Thomas Gray sentenced Michael Phelps to on Friday, with an additional five years’ probation.

In the end, the judge decided that aggravating factors in the case outweighed mitigating ones. Gray cited Phelps’ intent to kill Chance Jackson, as evidence by a series of text messages between Phelps and a former girlfriend which were introduced into evidence.

The judge accepted defense lawyer Steve Litz’s claim that Phelps lived a rocky home life with a drunken mother and four siblings with criminal convictions as a mitigating factor, but not enough of one to lessen the sentence.

Litz himself said Phelps made a mistake by fashioning a weapon while in prison.

“Shaving down this toothbrush,” Litz said, “even if just to protect himself or make himself seem bigger, you know, that was just a dumb thing to do. I tried to tell Michael that he needs to be a saint in jail, and so he certainly didn’t help himself any by doing that.”

Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega says the case will change Martinsville and West Middle School for the foreseeable future…

“Hopefully we can put it behind us,” he said, “and go on to education kids and be a great school again, but there is a result that you cant forget, you can’t forget what happened, it will be a part of our history unfortunately.”

In addition to the jail term, the shooting will also forbid Phelps from ever seeing his victim again. Defense lawyer Litz says he’ll appeal the ruling.

Earlier Today

At the time of the conviction, Morgan County Prosecutor Steve Sonnega said he wasn’t sure how long a prison term he’d recommend for the 16-year old.  During the trial, which had been scheduled for as much as a week but lasted less than 15 minutes, West Middle School student Chance Jackson showed a packed courtroom where two bullets fired by Phelps had struck him, leading to several surgeries and months of recovery time.

Indiana law specifies that anyone convicted of a Class A felony – the class which includes attempted murder – may be sentenced to between 20 and 50 years in prison, with the advisory sentence being 30 years.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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