Judge delays sentencing on 2015 shooting after seeing evidence from victim

Judge delays sentencing on 2015 shooting after seeing evidence from victim

April 20th, 2018 by Zack Peterson in Breaking News

Updated at 11:56 p.m. on Friday, April 20, 2018.

A Hamilton County judge delayed a plea agreement Friday that would place a man charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder on 10 years' supervised probation.

Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz seemed ready to accept an agreement between prosecutors and defense attorneys that would place Michael Shavers on house arrest for shooting his ex-girlfriend and another man in a Waffle House parking lot in February 2015.

Then he heard from the victim's mother.

"Michael Shavers threatened and plotted to kill my daughter," Donna Harris said. "The DA had said he would receive a lengthy sentence because he was charged with attempted first-degree murder two times. Every status hearing, we were told he was going to be a state's witness. We all began to worry that a plea deal would be offered. Then, we were told in late March a plea deal had been made so he could receive probation.

"That would not be justice," Donna Harris said. "I beg of justice for both of them."

She held a folder in her hands.

"Can I show you something?" she asked the judge.

"Please," Greenholtz said.

A courtroom bailiff took the folder up to the bench. Inside were messages Shavers sent to Ashley Harris after she ended their year-or-so-long relationship in late January 2015. Some threatened to kill her and her family. Others instructed Ashley Harris to make peace with her maker. A few showed pictures of guns and bullets.

Scared for her life, Ashley Harris lied to Shavers and said she was about five and a half months pregnant with a girl, prosecutors said.

Then, on Feb. 11, 2015, Shavers discovered Harris was at a Waffle House on Cummings Highway with Josh Maples. Prosecutors said he went there with a gun, hid in the woods, and fired eight times at the back of their truck.

Some bullets struck Ashley Harris in the hip and stomach; one struck Maples in the knee. Both survived. Days after the shooting, authorities caught Shavers in a cave in Georgia and charged him with two counts of attempted first-degree murder, a Class A felony that carries 15 to 25 years in prison.

"The information contained in [these messages] is dated," Greenholtz said. "It's about three years old, and there could be a change in the person appearing before the court today. But, if this person still exists, it raises a concern in my mind."

Mike Little, one of Shavers' public defenders, said his client was accepting responsibility for his actions and had matured in the last three years in Hamilton County custody. "I don't think Mr. Shavers is really in a position to object to the court's concerns," Little said. "I have watched him mature and grow and I just want the court to know that I feel and believe that."

Prosecutor Cameron Williams said he couldn't speculate on whether Shavers was still violent. Williams said Shavers received a "significant reduction" because he helped the state in the 2014 Lookout Valley triple homicide cases: He testified against one shooter, was prepared to testify against another, and showed law enforcement where the murder weapons were hidden in that homicide.

"My hope is that Mr. Shavers understands that any violation [of his house arrest and probation] would result in [him serving the rest of his 10-year sentence in prison]," Williams said, "which I know he wants to avoid. Because he would not be looked upon favorably by other inmates for testifying against an individual. I know he has no violent history. And I've received every indication from the defense that he has no desire to be around Ms. Harris and Mr. Maples."

Ultimately, Greenholtz did not accept or reject the agreement. Instead, the judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation report, which includes information on a defendant's criminal background, their education, and an risk assessment that determines how likely they are to offend.

That risk assessment, implemented on Jan. 1, 2017, as part of the state's Public Safety Act, uses a new set of questions and standards to determine whether a person charged with a felony has a high, moderate or low chance or re-offending.

The next court date is June 8 at 10:30 a.m.

"I'm glad they heard us and listened to us," Maples said afterwards. "They're going to review it and I'm glad they're doing that."

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.