TAUNTON, Mass. — Michelle Carter, whose own words helped seal her involuntary manslaughter conviction in the suicide of her teenage boyfriend, was sentenced to 15 months in a Massachusetts jail Thursday — but will remain free pending appeals.
“This court must and has balanced between rehabilitation, the promise that rehabilitation would work and a punishment for the actions that have occurred,” said Bristol County Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz, emphasizing rehabilitation as a primary component of juvenile justice.
Hundreds of Carter’s text messages presented as evidence over six days of testimony in June convinced Moniz of her guilt in a criminal case that hinged largely on intimate cellphone exchanges between Carter and 18-year-old Conrad Roy III.
Moniz sentenced Carter to a 2 1/2-year term — with 15 months in jail and the balance suspended plus a period of supervised probation.
Moniz granted a defense motion to stay the sentence, meaning she will remain free pending her appeals in Massachusetts.
Before imposing his sentence, the judge heard impassioned statements from relatives of Roy — a troubled young man who struggled with mental health issues and had attempted to take his life before his 2014 suicide.
Camdyn Roy broke down on the stand as she spoke of waking up and going to bed each day thinking of her brother. She lamented not being able to attend his wedding or to be an aunt to his children.
Conrad Roy Jr. told the court that Carter “exploited my son’s weaknesses and used him as a pawn” for her own interests.
And Lynn Roy, in a statement read by a prosecutor, said she prays that her son’s death “will save lives some day,” voicing her support for a state law making it a crime to coerce or encourage suicide.
“There is not one day that I do not mourn the loss of my beloved son,” she said.
Carter appeared to be close to tears as she listened, holding a tissue near her mouth.
Bristol Assistant District Attorney Maryclare Flynn recommended a sentence of seven to 12 years in jail, saying Carter “undertook a deliberate, well thought out campaign … for her own personal gain and quest for attention.”
Carter faced up to 20 years behind bars — but defense attorney Joe Cataldo asked for five years of supervised probation with required mental health counseling.
He said his client had been diagnosed with several eating disorders, had been taking anti-depressants and was not a danger to the public.
The case involved two young people struggling with mental issues, Cataldo said.
“This was so unique — these two sad individuals,” he said. “The goal is not punitive but rehabilitative.”
Daniel Medwed, a professor of law and criminal justice Northeastern University, said the judge agreed in the end.
“By sentencing her to prison time, (the judge) signaled that this behavior is abhorrent and will not be tolerated,” Medwed said.
“But by displaying mercy in terms of the relatively short duration of the sentence, I think he was trying to remain true to the goals of our juvenile system — which is not to lock them up and throw away the key but to impose punishment with an eye toward helping the defendant undergo self improvement and ideally lead a productive life.”Carter — who was tried as a juvenile because she was 17 at the time of the crime — was allowed to remain free on bail after her conviction.