This story was updated Jan. 10, 2019, at 7:26 p.m. with more information.
Prosecutors say Michael Shavers deceived the court to get a favorable sentence. His defenders say he needs a chance to work to truly rehabilitate. And a Chattanooga judge said Thursday the court will consider everything before deciding whether to send Shavers to prison for violating a lenient probation agreement he received for shooting his ex-girlfriend and another man.
Shavers, 25, faced two charges of attempted first-degree murder that each carried 15 to 25 years in prison for opening fire on Ashley Harris and Joshua Maples in a Waffle House parking lot in February 2015. Prosecutors, though, gave him a "significant reduction" in 2018 because he testified against a friend in a triple homicide and helped authorities locate hidden murder weapons.
Although Harris' mother objected to the sentence, Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Tom Greenholtz said he didn't want to overstep his authority and accepted a plea agreement that placed Shavers on 10 years' probation and house arrest.
The case seemed over — until officers accused Shavers of violating his probation this past fall when he failed drug screenings and admitted to smoking marijuana and taking Xanax. Everyone returned Thursday to court, where prosecutors pushed to send Shavers to prison and public defenders pleaded for more time for Shavers to restore himself.
Executive Assistant District Attorney Cameron Williams argued Shavers lied to his probation officer about why he moved locations. It wasn't because of a family disagreement, the prosecutor said, but because Shavers was using illegal drugs. Before he received probation, Williams said, Shavers also downplayed his drug use to a probation officer in the hopes of receiving a light sentence.
"Because you were afraid I wouldn't accept the plea?" Greenholtz asked Shavers.
"Yes," he admitted.
A probation violation for alleged drug use doesn't often send a person to prison, Williams said. But Shavers understood he was receiving a generous deal and knew he needed to follow the rules, he said. Indeed, at a 2018 hearing, the prosecutor said he would use any violation to send Shavers to prison.
But Assistant Public Defender Vikki Clark asked the judge to give Shavers six months to improve his life. Shavers had been on house arrest, unable to leave and get a job, unable to pay bills, unable to control his environment, Clark said. Ninety days into probation, he hadn't contacted the victim or engaged in violent behavior, she said. Though her client may not have told the truth, he was doing it to keep other people out of trouble, Clark said.
Greenholtz pushed back on this argument, saying Shavers was establishing a pattern of lying.
"It shows you're not amenable to rehabilitation," the judge said. "It means you're willing to lie, and hoping to get away with it. This is astounding to me. He testified the reason he lied to probation is because he thought the court would not agree to a plea and he would go to [prison]. And he continus to lie: On probation, to his officer, about why he wants to move. I won't minimize that. Lying to court is a big issue."
Clark asked the judge to consider the full situation and stressed she wouldn't press the issue for a more severe violation, such as having a gun. If Shavers screwed up again, Clark promised she wouldn't return and ask for leniency.
"He was forthcoming with you today, and all he's asking for is a chance to have something to do," Clark said. "You know well that six or seven years of sitting at home — when he can't fend for himself, pay his own bills — that he's going to be around things that he shouldn't be around. Give him six months. I've got resources, and [a company] is willing to interview him immediately. He'll come in and take regular drug screens. See if he can show the court he can get out and comply with society."
Greenholtz said he will take the matter under advisement and release an opinion at a later date.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.