Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill rejected a plea deal Tuesday morning that would have given a man a year in jail with probation for firing the gun that left Susan Crim, now 18, a quadriplegic for life.
Frederick Parra Ortiz, 19, is accused of discharging a gun, which resulted in his then girlfriend, Susan Crim, being shot in the neck.
The gunshot severed Crim's spine.
When making his decision to reject the plea, Cahill said the agreement would take away the court's ability to look at aggravating factors that could increase the time spent in prison to two years.
Cahill said he has read and received many letters from the Crim family, and mentioned the pre-sentence report recommended he reject the plea.
He said he does not have to follow the recommendation, but he gives great credence to it.
Cahill wondered why the plea would be appropriate, especially considering the injuries Crim will have for the rest of her life.
If Cahill had accepted the plea, the Class 6 felony could have been eventually reduced to a misdemeanor.
Gila County Attorney Patti Wortman said the grand jury was presented with all the evidence and statutes and came up with two charges -- possession of stolen property (the handgun) and unlawful discharge of a firearm in the city limits.
Under the plea agreement, the charge of possessing stolen property would have been dropped.
Wortman said if the case was to go to trial, Ortiz would be eligible for probation if convicted.
"I am kind of stumped why this (would be called) a miscarriage of justice," she said. "I see nowhere else where we can go."
She said the grand jury did not determine this to be an intentional shooting, and added the two conflicting statements Crim made to police could lead to reasonable doubt at a trial.
Wortman said if the case were to go to trial, the presumptive or average term in the Department of Corrections would be one year.
David Bednar, Ortiz's attorney, said all of the evidence was given to the grand jury so he cannot see how this plea can be a miscarriage of justice.
Bednar said he thinks the justice system tells them where to start, and added he was affected emotionally when reading the letters from Crim's family.
He said his client agrees that there should be no cap on the restitution amount. The cap is usually $250,000.
"This is a case where there was an accidental discharge," he said. "He was attempting to unload the weapon to make it more safe in the home."
Cahill said if he were to find two aggravating factors, he could sentence Ortiz to two years in the Department of Corrections, and added the severity of Crim's injuries is an aggravating factor.
Crim, speaking by telephone from her home, said that Ortiz pointed a gun, point blank, at her before firing it.
"He showed no remorse for (the situation) he put me in or my family," she said, fighting to maintain her composure. She said she had to learn to eat and talk all over again, and added the medical costs have been and will continue to be astronomical.
"The plea agreement is far from just and needs to be rejected," she said. "I just think he took away my rights. Frederick Parra Ortiz is a dangerous person who should not be allowed to walk the street. Me and my family want the justice we deserve."
Cahill said Crim's testimony was a factor in his decision to reject the plea, but didn't want people to blame her.
"It appears to me there is a good argument that this criminal act caused an impact to this victim, physically and financially," he said. "If this turns out to be the wrong decision, that is a consequence I will bear, not her."
Cahill set a status conference for 9 a.m. Oct. 17 in the Payson Superior Court.
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One bullet changes life of teen