TAUNTON (CBS/AP) — A young woman who as a teenager encouraged her suicidal boyfriend to kill himself in dozens of text messages and told him to “get back in” a truck filled with toxic gas was sentenced Thursday to 15 months in jail for involuntary manslaughter.
Michelle Carter was convicted in June by a judge who said her final instruction to Conrad Roy III caused his death. Carter was 17 when Roy, who was 18, was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in July 2014.
Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz gave Carter, now 20, a 2 1/2-year jail sentence but said she had to serve only 15 months of that. He also sentenced her to five years of probation. He granted a defense motion that will keep Carter out of jail until her appeals in state courts are exhausted.
The complete time of the sentence runs through August 1, 2022.
Carter’s defense attorney Joseph Cataldo argued for the stay stating that Carter felt remorse for her actions and that she was not a danger to society.
While Carter waits for the appeals to be exhausted, she is not to leave the state of Massachusetts, has to give a DNA sample to the court, has to report to a probation officer, and can have no contact with Conrad Roy’s family except for contact necessary during any civil litigation.
This status could take months or possibly years.
The family of Conrad Roy left court angry and in disbelief. “She gets to go home tonight into her nice home, whatever, she’s got to stay in Massachusetts, she can be at Six Flags tomorrow,” said Jimmy Brodeur, Roy’s uncle.
“I don’t understand how a month ago, it’s a guilty verdict giving the family hope that there might be some kind of justice, to just have her go home tonight and just have a nice meal.”
Watch A Report On What Happens Next By WBZ-TV Legal Analyst Jennifer Roman
Before the sentencing, Conrad Roy, III’s father Conrad Roy, Jr. testified to the court that the pain of his son’s death is with him every day.
“I cannot begin to describe how I feel over the loss of our son,” Roy said. “He was my best friend and I was by his side.”
Roy said he was proud of his son and believed that the younger Roy was going to recover.
“We felt he was healed and going in the right direction,” he said. “He had such a bright future.”
Watch Conrad Roy’s Father’s Impact Statement
The father had some harsh words for Carter.
“Michelle Carter exploited my son’s weaknesses and used him as a pawn in her own well-being. She has not shown any remorse,” Roy said.
“That fact that my son was convinced to kill himself makes his death unimaginable. How could Michelle Carter behave so viciously and encourage my son to end his life?” he said. “Where was her humanity? In what world is this behavior okay and acceptable?”
In dozens of text messages, Carter had urged Roy to follow through on his talk of taking his own life.
“The time is right and you are ready … just do it babe,” Carter wrote in a text the day he killed himself.
The sensational trial was closely watched on social media, in part because of the insistent tone of Carter’s text messages.
“You can’t think about it. You just have to do it,” Carter wrote in one text. “You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t.”
Cataldo argued Roy was determined to kill himself and nothing Carter did could change that. He said Carter initially tried to talk Roy out of it and urged him to get professional help but eventually went along with his plan. He also argued Carter’s words amounted to free speech protected by the First Amendment.
In convicting Carter, the judge focused his ruling on Carter telling Roy to “get back in” after he climbed out of his truck as it was filling with carbon monoxide and told her he was afraid. The judge said those words constituted “wanton and reckless conduct” under the manslaughter statute.
Prosecutor Maryclare Flynn told the court that Carter should be sentenced to prison for seven to twelve years. Flynn said that Carter has shown no remorse and that she has permanently damaged the Roy family.
“Because of Michelle Carter, Roy’s parents lost their only son. His two sisters will no longer have their older brother,” Flynn said.
Carter’s Defense Attorney Joseph Cataldo argued for a five-year sentence of supervised probation and mental health counseling. He also said that an order should be put in place that she stay away from the Roys.
“Under the juvenile system, the goal of any punishment is not punitive, but rehabilitative,” Cataldo said, “She has her own issues. She has her own problems.”
“I suggest that she is not a danger to the public and in a juvenile system, probation is sufficient,” Cataldo said.
In July, David Carter wrote that, “She will forever live with what she has done… I pray to God you will take into consideration that Michelle was a troubled, vulnerable teenager in an extremely difficult situation and made a tragic mistake.”
The judge called the case, which has garnered international attention, “a tragedy for two families.”
Cataldo said he’s confident Carter eventually will be vindicated. He said his appeal will be based on several grounds, including his argument Carter’s text messages and conversations with Roy amounted to free speech protected by the Constitution. He said he will also argue Carter didn’t break any laws because Massachusetts doesn’t have a law against assisting or encouraging suicide.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Lana Jones reports
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)