• 55°

Former asst. fire chief sentenced in shooting

Former Brookhaven Fire Department Assistant Chief Fred Smith wasordered to serve 3.5 years of a five-year sentence Monday forshooting into a vehicle during a November 2005 domesticdispute.

The remaining 18 months of Smith’s five-year sentence weresuspended by Judge Mike Taylor. Smith also was ordered to pay a$2,000 fine and assessed nearly $7,000 in restitution, as well ascourt costs.

In other developments, Taylor also set a trial date of June 5for Smith, who will be retried on six counts of aggravated assaultafter a jury could not reach a verdict on those chargesWednesday.

Smith was accused of firing into a vehicle containing hisstepdaughter, three of her cousins and two children on ThanksgivingDay 2005 during a domestic dispute. During last week’s trial,testimony about whether the guests were actually in the vehiclewhen the shots were fired was conflicting and contributed to thejury being unable to reach a decision on the aggravated assaultcharges.

Public Defender Gus Sermos consulted with Smith following thepassing down of the sentence and informed the judge they would notbe seeking an appeal based on Smith’s testimony on the standWednesday. Smith admitted firing into the vehicle while taking thestand in his own defense, but denied it was occupied at thetime.

“When I discovered that the glass had been broken out of myvehicles I retaliated and shot into their vehicle,” he said. “Noone was in it.”

Dorothy Alexander, a neighbor and a former school systemco-worker of Smith’s for 16 years, watched last week’s trial andattended the sentencing Monday. She agreed with the jury’s verdicton the shooting into a vehicle charge, but felt it should have beenreduced.

“He testified he shot into the vehicle, but it was never proventhey were inside the vehicle and, as such, it should be amisdemeanor and not a felony,” Alexander said.

Alexander said she and four others collected 180 signatures andtwo letters from county residents in support of Smith and handdelivered those petitions to the judge Monday morning.

Taylor said he took into account Smith’s record of no priorconvictions as well as the support of the community in deciding hissentence. However, he reminded the court that “Mr. Smith is nothere as a victim. He is a perpetrator of a crime.”

Alexander also presented Taylor with a file on a case similar toSmith’s prosecuted by District Attorney Dewitt “Dee” Bates in 2004when the prosecutor allowed the defendant to plea bargain down to amisdemeanor. She said Smith should have been given the sameopportunity, but the plea bargain offered to him kept the charge afelony.

“The State of Mississippi in this case has executed a doublestandard,” she said. “What we have here is a lack ofprofessionalism, integrity and simple, fundamental fairness.”

Bates said he could not argue there were some similarities inthe two cases, but certain elements of the earlier case made himpursue a less severe penalty in order to secure a conviction.

“There were some things that arose later in that case that madeit very difficult to prove,” he said.

He added that no charges of aggravated assault were filed in theearlier case.

The preponderance of evidence in Smith’s case prompted continuedpursuit of the stronger charge, Bates said.