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Archive for Thursday, August 22, 2002

Baldwin shooter gets prison time

August 22, 2002

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Saying he was sorry Wednesday about shooting his neighbor's boyfriend during a dispute last year in Baldwin didn't do Stephen Meeker much good.

Douglas County District Court Judge Jack Murphy sentenced Meeker, 34, to serve about six years in prison for convictions stemming from the shooting, during which two other people were either shot at or threatened.

"I really don't know what the future holds for me right now, but he finally got what he deserves," said Steven Swafford, 33, who has lost the use of his right hand since the night of Oct. 14, 2001, when he was shot three times by Meeker.

Saying it was fortunate that Swafford, a Lawrence resident, was still alive, Murphy sentenced Meeker to 41 months in prison for aggravated battery, to be followed by three years of post-release supervision.

Meeker also was ordered to serve 18 months in prison for attempted aggravated battery for shooting at Swafford's friend, Chris O'Neil, Lawrence, and 12 months in prison for aggravated assault and threatening Swafford's girlfriend, Kerry Chalmers.

The sentences are to be served consecutively.

In July, Meeker was convicted by a jury on all charges against him. It was his second trial, after a jury in April was unable to reach a verdict.

"I hope he realizes what he's done," Swafford said. "I hope he thinks about it every day for the rest of his life."

Testimony revealed a dispute between the Meekers' and Chalmers' children escalated to include the adults and resulted in the shooting in the 1200 block of Bison Court. The night of the shooting, Chalmers went next door to the Meekers' house to confront Meeker's wife, Erin.

Chalmers said she talked to Erin Meeker at the front door and had turned to leave when Stephen Meeker, naked, came out the door and pointed a 9 mm pistol at her. Swafford and O'Neil said they were standing outside Chalmers' house, yelled at Meeker and ran toward him. They said Stephen Meeker began shooting.

The Meekers testified they feared Chalmers and the others because of earlier problems. Stephen Meeker said he had just gotten out of the shower and got his gun after hearing Chalmers inside the house threatening his wife.

Stephen Meeker argued he fired the gun in self defense.

"I'm sorry," Meeker said, tears in his eyes. "If I could take all this back, yes, I would."

Prior to sentencing, Meeker's attorney, Jim Rumsey, tried to convince Murphy to depart from state sentencing guidelines. Assistant Dist. Atty. Dan Dunbar disagreed.

"The jury told the defendant that his actions were uncalled for," Dunbar said. "To depart at this time would undo the message that I think the jury sent."

Murphy rejected Rumsey's arguments and sentenced Meeker in accordance with the guidelines.

Murphy also spoke out for the first time about his decision to revoke Meeker's bond a few days after the trial, placing Meeker in the Douglas County Jail while awaiting sentencing.

Rumsey filed a motion for a hearing on the matter at the time, claiming the judge revoked the bond because of a deteriorating situation in the Baldwin Police Department. The motion was denied by another judge.

After the sentencing, Murphy rebuked Rumsey, saying he revoked the bond for Meeker's own safety and the safety of the Baldwin community. He said his decision had nothing to do with the police department and for anyone to say so "doesn't make any sense."

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