District Judge Paul Miller sentenced Tracy A. Hackney, 42, to a total of 21 years and seven months in prison this morning in the Clay County District Court.
That's more than double what county attorney Rick James had recommended he receive in offering Hackney a plea agreement before last month's trial.
Miller sentenced Hackney to 216 months for attempted second degree murder and 32 months for criminal discharge of weapon at an occupied vehicle, both of which are to be served concurrently. Hackney was also sentenced an additional 43 months for trafficking contraband, to be served consecutively.
Miller denied motions for acquittal, re-trial and departure from sentencing filed by Hackney's defense, Jillian Waesche-Seaton.
Wasche-Seaton argued that the state had not presented sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Hackney had intentionally tried to kill Teri Buskirk and that Hackney had not received a fair trial because of the small community and highly publicized case.
James argued the state had not only provided enough evidence, but "overwhelming" evidence. Miller agreed that evidence was sufficient.
Miller said he had ruled previously in a change of venue request "that publicity in and of itself is not a sufficient reason for a change of venue," and it was his opinion the jurors were "not tainted by pre-trial publicity."
Waesche-Seaton also said evidence was insufficient in arguing for a departure for sentencing, saying that on the witness stand Buskirk said the gun was never pointed directly at her but was always pointed down.
James said under cross-examination that Buskirk also said she never saw the gun. He also referenced the van door that was submitted into evidence, which showed a bullet had entered just below the window ledge.
Waesche-Seaton referenced a letter Buskirk sent to the court asking not to put Hackney into prison but that he be allowed to seek mental health treatment.
"She said unless he's under the influence of methampthetamine, he's a very nice and kind person," Waesche-Seaton said.
James said Buskirk was in a relationship with Hackney up to the point he was taken into custody and it's "not uncommon for victims in an abusive relationship to recant."
Waesche-Seaton argued that the degrees of harm in this case were less severe in this case because both the victim and Hackney were involved in the drug culture and have "lower expectations for personal safety." She also argued the trafficking charge caused little harm because it involved a broken lighter.
James said that all lives are equal in the eyes of the court. "Just because you're part of the drug culture or involved in the sale of drugs, doesn't mean you deserve to be shot," he said. "The life of a drug dealer isn't worth any less than anyone else."
Waesche-Seaton also argued Hackney's past as a reason for departure from sentencing -- that he had only been involved in two other felony crimes, a burglary when he was 20 and an aggravated battery when he was 32; and that he had a traumatic childhood with a sister having drowned when he 5.
"His family structure fell apart ... he was basically on his own from when he was 5," Waesche-Seaton said.
James also used Hackney's past as a reason he recommended a "standard" sentence. Hackney had been in prison for most of his adult life, mostly because he has violated parole, James said. Hackney has 10 previous convictions, most of them misdemeanors, but some of them "violent crimes nonetheless," he said.
"To summarize his prison time, since he was first sent to prison in December, 1987, he has spent 145 months, or 12 years and 1 month, incarcerated, and 96 months, or eight years, free," James said in his answer to the motion for departure. "During that time, he absconded six times and never successfully completed a parole."
Several times he absconded in the same month he was put on parole, James said.
"Obviously the fear of being sent back to prison has no deterrent," James said. "He has been given multiple opportunities to conform to society's norms ... Mr. Hackney was a danger to society when sent to prison when he was 20 and he remains a danger to society."
Hackney asked the judge himself for a chance to seek mental help, because there was no such help when he was in the penitentiary and he struggled to find help when he was out. Being on medication helped some when he had it, but when he ran out because of income ineligibility, "the problems came back."
"I've tried so hard to ask for help," he said. "All I ask is for a chance to be in society without endangering anyone."
"Help starts with helping yourself," Miller told Hackney. "When you were placed on parole ... and absconded, you're not helping yourself and you're not helping your parole officer help you."
Waesche-Seaton asked Miller to consider the 10-year sentence that was offered in the plea agreement, but Miller said Hackney did not take the plea agreement and that offer was "irrelevant."
Miller said considering Hackney's history between 1987 and 2007, "anything short of what the Legislature recommends is not appropriate."
Miller waived all court fees, fines and attorney fees "because it's obvious (Hackney) won't be getting out any time soon."