A Fresno man who recklessly fired a gun that killed a 65-year-old man, who was doing nothing more than sitting on a couch, was sentenced Tuesday to 21 years in prison.
Lemont Smith, 31, who has admitted to killing Gerald Perry in April last year, declined to comment when his punishment was announced in Fresno County Superior Court.
His attorney, Kathy Marousek told Perry’s family that Smith was sorry. “He made a horrible decision while under the influence of alcohol,” Marousek said. At the time of the shooting, Smith’s blood-alcohol was .24, which is three times the legal limit to drive, Marousek said.
Prosecutor Sam Dalesandro said Perry was sitting on a couch in his granddaughter’s apartment near Marks and Ashlan avenues when a bullet came flying through a sliding-glass door and struck him in the head on April 18. He died the next day.
Smith could have faced life in prison if he had been convicted of murder. In a plea agreement, Smith pleaded guilty on Feb. 5 to a felony charge of manslaughter by using a gun and admitted that he had a prior felony conviction for attempted robbery in 2002.
At Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, Perry’s relatives fondly remembered him as a man who loved his wife Rebecca, and his five children, five grandchildren and one great-granddaughter. They also thanked Dalesandro for giving them justice.
Before Smith was sentenced, Perry’s daughter, Jennifer Nay, told Judge Jonathan Skiles that the pain of losing a loved one felt like a bandage being ripped off an open wound over and over.
Emotions were so high that Perry’s granddaughter, 13-year-old Madison Watt, left the courtroom in tears. When she returned, she told a shackled Smith that it wasn’t time for her grandfather to die.
“Your careless act took a man’s life,” she told Smith.
Rebecca Perry said her husband was holding his great-grandaughter and had just put her down on the floor when he was shot. “It’s such a nightmare, so unreal, seeing him in the hospital and told he was going to die,” she told the judge.
Rebecca Perry said she and her family have forgiven Smith and they were glad he accepted responsibility. “I hope in my heart that this will change you,” she told Smith. “It was such a stupid mistake.”
In asking for leniency for Smith, Marousek said he never intended to kill Perry; the bullet went through a fence before it went through the sliding-glass door. And once police confronted Smith, he “admitted fault,” Marousek said.
Skiles said the 21-year prison sentence was agreed upon by both sides. “Hopefully, time will heal the Perry family’s pain. Your family will grieve as well,” the judge told the defendant.