By KELI JACOBI News-Times Staff The wife and extended family of an apparent drive-by shooting victim filed into Union County Circuit Court on Thursday to witness the defendant’s plea – only to have the case continued until next month after expressing their displeasure at the 15-year sentence and the amended charges from first to second-degree murder.
Over a dozen family members of Jason Sullivan faced the defendant, Carlos Magallanes Jr., 28, who stands accused of shooting Sullivan in the head as he was celebrating his birthday party at his parent’s home in February 2004.
Magallanes allegedly shot several rounds from a .22 rifle as he passed the residence on Magnolia Highway while driving in his truck, according to court records. Medical examiners recovered a .22 bullet from Sullivan’s head and pronounced him dead at the scene.
"Why does this scumbag get to live?" a woman asked Judge Hamilton H. Singleton after identifying herself as Sullivan’s grandmother.
"Jason’s dead ... He (Magallanes) should be locked up for life."
"The law doesn’t allow that," responded Singleton. "It’s still not fair," retorted the woman.
"I understand ... you need to talk with the prosecuting attorney’s office," said Singleton.
A plea agreement filed at the Union County Courthouse on Jan. 12 indi cates that Magallanes was prepared to enter a plea to second-degree murder with a recommended sentence of 15 years in the Arkansas Department of Correction. The state dropped charges of committing a terroristic act as part of the plea agreement. Sullivan’s death came just months before a new law took effect in Arkansas which bumps second-degree mur der from a class B felony to a class A felony offense. Under the old law, sentencing for second-degree murder ranges from as low as five years up to no more than 20 years.
Class A felonies carry a harsher range of no less than six and up to 30 years in prison.
But the victim’s family also expressed dissatisfaction that the initial charge of firstdegree murder – a class Y felony punishable by no less than 10 nor more than 40 years or life imprisonment – had been amended to seconddegree murder.
"The situation would’ve been different if he (Jason Sullivan) had been outside" (the home at the time of the shooting), stated public defender Robert Jeffrey, who is representing Magallanes in the case.
"I understand ... and feel deeply for them" (Sullivan’s family), said deputy prosecutor Jeff Rogers, though he cited "proof issues" as well as testimonial challenges as his reason for entering into the plea agreement with the defense.
"The problem we’re running into, I think, is we have this family who is not quite understanding what’s happening," said Singleton, as he ordered the prosecutor to reconvene about the matter. "A t least then you’ll understand what the state has to work with," he told the family members.