"It's time to have closure on this case," Ramsey County District Judge Kathleen Gearin said Wednesday as she prepared for a plea hearing more than seven years in the making.
For the families of two men, the closure came as Carlos Antonio Scott, 32, pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted murder and third-degree murder in the 2001 shooting that killed Charles Craighead and wounded Shon Pierson. A third charge of drive-by shooting was dismissed.
Scott himself remains a quadriplegic after being shot when St. Paul police officer Michael Lee fired one blast from a shotgun, hitting both Craighead, 46, and Scott as they wrestled over a gun Scott had used when he tried to carjack Craighead and fiancée Joyce McDougle.
Gearin stayed concurrent sentences of 200 and 210 months, and instead ordered Scott to serve 20 years on probation for the third-degree murder charge and 25 years probation for the attempted first-degree murder.
Prisons simply aren't equipped financially or physically to handle a quadriplegic, Gearin said.
"He's kind of in his own little prison," defense attorney David Gill said.
The shotgun blast that killed Craighead and paralyzed Scott culminated a series of violent events on the morning of Dec. 3, 2001, in the Summit-University neighborhood.
Scott shot and wounded Arcel Magee about 8:30 a.m. as Magee drove his van near Victoria Street and Lafond Avenue.
Ninety minutes later, Scott had an acquaintance drive him to Pierson's home on Iglehart Avenue. Pierson had sold Scott a Cadillac and they argued over the payment. Scott, armed with a .45-caliber pistol, chased Pierson around the neighborhood and shot him in the head. Pierson survived but lost his left eye and has a brain injury.
Then Scott approached two strangers -- Craighead and McDougle -- and asked for a ride. When Craighead refused, Scott tried to carjack them. Craighead wrested the gun away from Scott and in the ensuing chaos, Lee fired his shotgun and hit both men.
McDougle was the only one of Scott's victims who appeared in court Wednesday. She cried quietly as an advocate read victim-impact statements from her and Pierson.
"I don't know how to begin to express how I feel," McDougle's said. "He took my lover, my friend, my partner, my confidante. ... I know in my heart I can forgive, but I can't forget."
"I still have nightmares about the shooting," Pierson's statement said.
Scott spoke softly but clearly after Gearin's clerk and two deputies helped him get his wheelchair up to the witness stand. He apologized to McDougle and said he'd apologize to Pierson if he was there.
When Gearin asked him what advice he had for others, he replied, "Learn to be the bigger person in every situation so it doesn't escalate."
Pat Pheifer • 612-741-4992