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September 3, 2010

State judge responds to mom's request for leniency after fratricide

As revealed by this local sentencing article, which is headlined "Mother persuades judge to go easy on son in fatal shooting," a mother's enduring love can sometimes help at sentencing. Here are the details:

Nine months ago, Ruth Nichols lost one son to gunfire and the other to a jail cell while he awaited trial in his younger brother's death. On Thursday, a judge went along with the woman's wishes and showed her surviving son leniency.

Frederick County Circuit Judge G. Edward Dwyer Jr. pointed to Ruth Nichols' request as the key reason he was persuaded to go below the state sentencing guidelines of three to eight years by ordering Allen L. Nichols, 45, to serve 18 months of a 10-year sentence for manslaughter.

Recommending no more than five years, Deputy State's Attorney David R. Callahan also acknowledged the family's fervent support for the defendant despite the Dec. 1 death of Terry J. Nichols, 43, in the family's Knoxville home.

"It's hard enough to lose one," Ruth Nichols said in the courtroom before the hearing. "I need him (Allen Nichols) home. He helps me with things I can't do."

Authorities said witnesses never wavered in their accounts of the argument that erupted between the brothers when Allen Nichols was awakened after Terry Nichols returned home from a night of drinking. "Ruth stated (that) Terry is very loud when he drinks," according to charging documents....

Family members heard Terry Nichols say, "Pull the trigger. I dare you," just before the fatal shot was fired, court documents state. A 911 dispatcher speaking to Ruth Nichols over the phone heard a man in the background saying, "I didn't know the damn thing was (expletive) loaded." Neither brother believed the gun was loaded, Ruth Nichols said.

Before sentence was imposed Thursday, defense attorney Alan L. Winik said Allen Nichols had agreed to waive credit for the nine months he has already spent at the Frederick County Adult Detention Center, meaning his total sentence will be closer to 27 months. "This is a rather unusual case," Winik said. "It is a tragedy linked to the deadly combination of gunpowder and alcohol that has led us to where we are today."

Dwyer authorized work release for Nichols, whose employer has stood behind him since his arrest, Winik said. Allen Nichols supports his mother and an invalid brother. The shooting has put the family in dire straits. Allowing Nichols to work and keeping his sentence limited to the local jail "will allow the preservation of this family who have all had to live with the fact that they have lost a loved one," Winik said.

September 3, 2010 at 09:45 AM | Permalink

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