Michael Lash may never regain feeling in one foot after being shot in both legs. Though his wife and baby daughter weren’t physically injured in a violent home invasion in northwest Atlanta, the two dodged bullets by inches.
Still, the couple has forgiven the four teenagers responsible, the Lashes said Thursday morning in a Fulton County courtroom. The first of four suspects accused in the shooting, meanwhile, offered no apologies while pleading guilty.
Brandon Jerome Smith, who turned 19 on Jan. 21, was sentenced to life in prison, plus 20 years and an additional five years for the violent home invasion in August. The sentence means Smith will likely spend at least 45 years in prison, prosecutors said.
Smith never spoke to Michael and Whitney Lash, both seated in the courtroom with family members, or glanced at them. But he quietly responded to questions about whether he understood the conditions of a plea deal.
“Yes, ma’am,” Smith said, barely audible, even through a microphone.
Smith’s attorney said he was under the influence of a variety of drugs the day he led three other teenagers to the Lash family home on Sumter Street. After growing up in poverty and surrounded by drug use and violence, Smith also began using drugs as a child, his attorney said. Marijuana, cocaine and prescription drugs were included.
But in statements to the court, the Lashes said Smith and his co-defendants could have run away instead of forcing their way into the family’s home.
“It did grip the city,” Judge Henry Newkirk told the court. “It is a family’s worst nightmare.”
The remaining three defendants — Veshawn Smith, 15, and Trequan Sutton and Quindarius Slade, both 16, each pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon and were sentenced to 18 years in prison.
“All it takes is one lapse in judgment and it can terribly affect your lives,” Newkirk said. “You will get out of prison one day, and believe it not, it’s going to be sooner rather than later.”