Facing a maximum of 10 years in prison if convicted of the involuntary manslaughter of his best friend, Morgan Springer instead chose to plead guilty Monday to the shooting death of Conner Weeks and was sentenced to 10 years of probation and 250 hours of community service.
Springer, 17, faced felony charges for the Oct. 15 shooting of Weeks on the back patio of a Wells Drive home in Columbus. Prosecutors say Springer was joking when he pointed a shotgun at Weeks, who was inside the home at the time. Believing the gun was empty, he pulled the trigger. The blast struck the 18-year-old Weeks, who later died in surgery.
Out on bond, Springer said little Monday as he stood before Superior Court Chief Judge John Allen and pleaded guilty to one count of involuntary manslaughter. Assistant District Attorney David
As the mother of Conner, my loss will be forever, and trust and forgiveness does not come easy, wrote Stacy Weeks, who didnt appear in court. Morgan will forever be in his own prison. The plans they made as teenagers will stay with him til the end of time.
David Rickey Weeks, Conner Weeks father, stood silently near Helmick as the prosecutor read the letter. He said nothing during Mondays hearing. Springers supporters also remained quiet.
Defense attorney Stacey Jackson argued his client should face no prison time, or only a short term if Allen opted for incarceration.
They were best friends, Jackson said. Hes pretty much broken up.
Allen said a draconian sentence wasnt needed.
I dont think the family is served or this young man is served by any time in jail, Allen said.
Springer faced two counts of involuntary manslaughter: one for causing Weeks death by pointing the shotgun and one for acting recklessly by pointing the gun and pulling the trigger. One of the charges was dropped when Springer pleaded guilty.
The judge then sentenced Springer to 10 years probation and 250 hours community service. Springer must have regular contact with a probation officer for the first two years of probation.
Springer pleaded guilty as a first offender. If he successfully completes his probation, he will not be a convicted felon. Helmick said it may be possible for Springer to legally have a firearm at that point.
Springer, Weeks, Parker Williams and another teen were at Williams home about 8 p.m. Oct. 15 when the shooting happened, Helmick said.
Weeks went inside the home, and the three others began playing with guns on the back patio.
They first handled an AK-47 before Williams passed a shotgun to Springer, who was told it wasnt loaded, Helmick said.
That shotgun could be loaded by pumping or dry firing it. At some point, Springer chambered a shell by dry firing the gun. He then pointed it at the bathroom window, where Weeks stood just behind the glass.
The defendant just kind of pointed the gun, as if he were playing a joke, Helmick said. He pulled the trigger. It fired.
Someone called 911, and authorities responded to the home. Reports state police found Weeks in the bathroom with a gunshot wound to the right side of his body. He was taken to the hospital, where he died hours later in surgery.
Springer admitted to firing the gun, though he said he didnt know it was loaded, the prosecutor said.
Mondays plea closes Springers case. Williams, however, still faces a misdemeanor reckless conduct charge for allegedly giving Springer the shotgun.
The case against Williams, 18, remains open.