Justin Sledge Sentenced on Gun Charge

Published: Apr. 29, 2003 at 10:18 PM CDT|Updated: May. 8, 2003 at 4:02 PM CDT
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Justin Sledge dodged legal bullets in 1997 when murder accessory and conspiracy charges against him were dropped in the fatal Pearl High School shootings, but Tuesday he was not so lucky. Sledge was sentenced to prison on an unrelated firearm's charge.

22 year-old Justin Sledge ran out of the federal court house on Monday...trying to dodge cameras. But a day later he could not escape. The man, once tied to the Pearl High School shootings, is on his way to prison after admitting to buying an unregistered machine gun over the internet and firing it on a few occasions.

Even Sledge admits that Judge William Barbour gave him a break on his sentence, which is four months in prison and four months on house arrest with three years probation.

On his way out of court in cuffs Sledge said, "I thank the judge."

The judge says he gave the lenient sentence in part because of testimony and letters from professors at Millsaps and friends.

David Lazich, a Sledge supporter, says "He's certainly one of our best friends. He's been very true to us and we plan on being true to him. We support him completely."

After Judge Barbour handed down the sentence, he told Sledge that as bright as he is, it was pretty stupid to go out there and play with and automatic weapon after being put in the spotlight.

Judge Barbour also said, "I think we're dealing with a brilliant mind. I hope we're not dealing with an Hannibal Lecter."

U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton says, "That's what concerns me. He has the ability to manipulate. As the judge pointed out, he was wearing an American flag today."

U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton says although it is unrelated to this gun charge, Sledge's past was an important factor in this case.

Lampton says, "He was a lot closer to Luke Woodham than he led the court to believe. That's what's disturbing to me."

Luke Woodham is the Pearl student who actually pulled the trigger killing two students and injuring others at Pearl High School in 1997.

Judge Barbour told Sledge that he does not know what part he had in the tragedy, but he does know that Sledge lied to him in court.

Lampton says, "Hopefully the time he's incarcerated and on house arrest will get a message to him that he's on the wrong path."

To some...the past remains a mystery...along with the future of Justin Sledge.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Sledge faced a maximum of 3 years in prison. The judge said he gave the sentence he did so Sledge can get back in school in August. Sledge is a former religious studies major at Millsaps College.