THE SUSPECT

Five Points alleged shooter got chances to stay out of trouble

jmonk@thestate.comOctober 15, 2013 

  • A YOUTHFUL OFFENDER Michael Juan Smith’s interaction with the justice system

    APRIL 2010: First-degree burglary, reduced to second-degree burglary. Two years of probation

    OCTOBER 2011: First-degree burglary and grand larceny, reduced to second-degree burglary and grand larceny. Serves 10 months in prison for violating probation. When he gets out, he is sentenced to 10 years, suspended to the time he had served on the first charge, with no time for the second charge. He is put on an additional probation for three years.

    JULY 2013: Obstructing justice, a charge by the State Law Enforcement Division. The charge was dropped on SLED’s recommendation.

Michael Juan Smith, who was roaming Five Points with a stolen Glock handgun early Sunday, had for three years avoided lengthy sentences in Richland County courtrooms on two burglary charges.

Smith, a convicted felon who is either 20 or 21 – he has two birthdates in official records – is now the only suspect in the random shooting that left an innocent University of South Carolina student paralyzed and likely never to walk again.

A look at Smith’s criminal history – contained in state prison records, Richland County courthouse files and Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center records – shows a young man given several chances to go straight and who wound up each time tangling with the law. After his first burglary conviction, when he was given probation, Smith fairly quickly burglarized another dwelling, according to records.

“He’s a bad guy,” said 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson. “We intend to prosecute him vigorously.”

Click here to read The State's coverage of Five Points' crime.

In Sunday’s shooting, Smith is charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, use of a weapon during a violent crime and possession of a weapon by a convicted violent felon, among other things.

FIRST CRIME

On April 15, 2010, the then-18-year-old Smith was charged with first-degree burglary, which carries a maximum life sentence. He allegedly tried to open an apartment door at Saluda River Road in the St. Andrews area with a handsaw, according to a warrant in that case. He was sent to Richland County’s Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.

Eleven days later, on April 26, 2010, then-Circuit Court Judge Michelle Childs ordered Smith released on $20,000 bond. Childs ordered that he be home every night at 10 p.m. and only go to home, school, work, church and legal appointments, according to court documents.

Six months later, in October 2010, Smith pleaded guilty before Judge Casey Manning to second-degree burglary – which carries a maximum 10 to 15 years. Manning sentenced Smith under the state’s Youthful Offender Act to a prison term, not to exceed two years, suspended for two years – meaning Smith would not serve time if he went straight.

The Youthful Offender Act is a law that applies to young people ages 18-25. They receive minimum prison sentences and are kept away from the general prison population in hopes they might be rehabilitated, said S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services spokesman Peter O’Boyle.

Manning also ordered Smith to get and keep a job as well as to serve 80 hours of public service employment, according to the court sentencing document.

SECOND CRIME

A year later, on Oct. 11, 2011, Richland County deputies arrested Smith and charged him with grand larceny and first-degree burglary of a home on Longcreek Drive, also in St. Andrews. The warrant alleged Smith committed the crime “during the hours of darkness,” which is a felony and qualified him for a sentence of 15 years to life if found guilty.

Warrants in that case alleged Smith kicked open an apartment door and stole “electronics and currency” worth more than $2,000. The stolen items were found a few minutes later in a laundry room. Richland County deputies quickly arrested Smith, who was seen by an eyewitness.

On Dec. 15, 2011, in a hearing about the October 2011 burglary, Judge Manning ordered Smith released from the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center on a $100,000 personal recognizance bond – meaning Smith paid no money. Manning ordered Smith to attend GED classes “and/or work.”

Meanwhile, the Probation, Parole and Pardon Services department learned about Smith’s latest burglary charge. Its officials charged him with violating probation.

On April 6, 2012, after finding that Smith violated numerous probation requirements – including failing to get a job and using drugs – Judge G. Thomas Cooper Jr. revoked Smith’s probation and ordered him to prison under Judge Manning’s Youthful Offender Act sentence for the 2010 burglary.

Specifically, Cooper found, Smith failed to complete his public service requirement, he used drugs while on probation and failed to get a job.

Smith went straight to prison. He spent from April 2012 to February 2013 in prison, according to the S.C. Department of Corrections.

After leaving prison, Smith went to court on the October 2011 charge of first-degree burglary and grand larceny at Longcreek Drive.

On March 12 of this year, Judge Thomas W. Cooper Jr. allowed Smith to plead guilty to grand larceny and second-degree burglary in the October 2011 burglary. The burglary was classified as “violent,” which means Smith was now classified as a violent offender.

Records show Cooper then sentenced Smith to 10 years – suspended to the time he had served in jail and in state prison. Cooper also put Smith on probation for three years. That meant that Smith didn’t have to serve any additional time in prison specifically for the October 2011 burglary.

BACK AGAIN

On June 25, Smith was arrested again by Columbia police on a charge of trespassing, according to State Law Enforcement Division and jail records. He was released from the Glenn Detention Center after a few hours on a $470 personal recognizance bond. City police said they had no immediate details Tuesday on that arrest.

In late July and early August, Smith spent two weeks in the Glenn Detention Center on a charge of obstructing justice, brought by SLED. In that matter – which was unrelated to any local criminal charge – Smith eventually cooperated by giving agents information, and the charges were dropped, SLED chief Mark Keel said Tuesday.

Johnson said without a transcript of what was actually said before the various judges in whose courtrooms Smith appeared, it is hard to draw a conclusion about whether the judges’ decision was too light or too harsh.

In the March hearing about Smith’s 2011 burglary, for example, Johnson said his prosecutor had to contend with an uncooperative witness and no fingerprints on the stolen items that could be linked to Smith.

“We have to react to the evidence we have, not the evidence we wished we could have had,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he would disagree with anyone who said Smith was treated lightly. “We prosecuted him each time, and both convictions are on his record.”

Johnson said, “We do everything we can within the law to keep these criminals in jail. When something like this happens, it tears my prosecutors up.”

Sadly, Johnson said, “You can’t predict these people’s future behavior.”

Reach Monk at (803) 771-9344.

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service