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Drive-by shooter plea-bargains sentence down to seven years
SAINT ROBERT, Mo. (March 6, 2010) — A man who sheriff’s deputies say committed a drive-by shooting last April on Happy Drive off Highway 28 and then threatened potential witnesses with warnings that “snitches end up in ditches” will spend seven years in state prison following a plea bargain accepted Thursday by Associate Circuit Judge John Clayton.

The recent plea bargain by Rick Edward Griffith, 39, is to a Class C felony charge of second-degree assault for which Griffith’s seven-year sentence is the maximum penalty. However, it’s far less than he could have received on the original charges.

Griffith had a Dixon address but lived on another side street off Highway 28 north of St. Robert. He had originally been charged by Prosecuting Attorney Deborah Hooper with one Class A felony charge of first-degree assault, an unclassified felony charge of armed criminal action, a Class B felony charge of unlawful use of a weapon and a class D felony charge of hindering prosecution, all connected with accusations that he shot a man on April 25 with a .22-caliber AR7 survival rifle which he discharged from a motor vehicle, and subsequently threatened bodily harm to a witness.

Class A felonies are the most serious type of felonies under Missouri law short of murder, and the drive-by shooting, on its own, carried a minimum sentence of 10 years with a maximum of 30 years. The unlawful use of a weapon charge carried a penalty of 5 to 15 years and the threats to a witness carried a penalty of up to four years.

Clayton, who ordinarily serves in Maries County, heard the case in Phelps County because attorneys objected on July 13 to Circuit Judge Mary Sheffield hearing the case and the Missouri Supreme Court assigned Clayton on Oct. 13. Griffith’s public defender objected on July 17 to the case being heard in Pulaski County and on Oct. 29 and Nov. 5, attorneys discussed with Clayton where the case should be heard, eventually agreeing to a two-day jury trial beginning on April 14 in Phelps County with a pretrial conference on April 12.

The case began last April when Sheriff J.B. King said his deputies responded to an early-morning shooting and found a man laying on the front porch of a residence who “told them he had been shot and identified his assailant by name.”

The victim was transported by Pulaski County Ambulance District personnel to Phelps County Regional Medical Center for treatment. Deputies had a wild morning hunting down the assailants, with a call coming in a few minutes later that somebody with a gun was pounding on a neighbor’s door. Sheriff’s dispatchers told the caller to stay inside and lock her door. Pulaski County 911 dispatchers then reported that the gunman was somewhere on Host Drive and shortly afterwards reported that the victim had been shot in the arm.

Court documents claim that other people were also involved in the drive-by shooting incident, but King said Saturday that as far as he knows, no other charges have been processed.

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