NEWS

Teen who brought 6 guns to school gets prison time

John Faddoul

"Guns plus school equals prison" for the Odell teen who brought six handguns to Pontiac Township High School on Aug. 28.

Circuit Judge Harold Frobish used that sentence twice Wednesday afternoon, just before imposing a three-year term in the Department of Corrections on Sean R. Sullivan, 16, of Odell. The judge told Sullivan -- who had "a significant juvenile criminal history" and who had been released from 30 days' detention less than a month before bringing the guns to PTHS -- that the sentence might teach him a lesson "that you have been unwilling to receive until this time."

That was a reference to a letter Sullivan had written to be considered at sentencing: "I really don't think about the consequences of my action beforehand." The judge quoted that as he reviewed the factors in deciding whether to impose probation or up to five years in prison for Class 3 felony unlawful use of weapon.

Frobish discharged unsuccessfully Sullivan's juvenile probation sentence and told him that the prison term was "justly earned."

He received credit for the 135 days he had been in juvenile detention between his arrest the day of the incident that led to a Code Red of more than three hours at the high school until his sentencing in Livingston County Circuit Court, where he was charged and tried as an adult.

The judge made Sullivan eligible for day-for-day good-time credit and noted that the DOC in such sentences likes to "kick out" people six months early. Nonetheless, when Sullivan turns 17, on July 16, he will be eligible for transfer from a DOC youth facility to an adult prison.

Sullivan had pleaded guilty on Nov. 21 to all 12 counts he faced: six for having the guns on a school bus, six for having them in a school. At that court session, First Assistant State's Attorney Carey J. Luckman agreed to recommend not more than three years in the DOC.

The prosecutor stayed with that three-year recommendation Wednesday, telling the judge that Sullivan provided "very candid testimony" at the jury trial of co-defendant Martin Huerta Jr., 15, of Saunemin, who has been convicted on two of the 12 weapons counts he faced and sentenced to 30 months of probation. The two planned to exchange bookbags containing the guns, which Huerta had wanted to buy from Sullivan.

Luckman said he couldn't say if Sullivan "fully grasped the gravity" of putting deadly weapons into circulation but that it was also not his first time in court. He said he did not know if it was "enlightened self-interest or just doing the right thing" that made Sullivan testify at Huerta's trial.

Defense attorney Tracy Smith recommended probation, noting that Sullivan brought no ammunition to school and had no intention that "anything bad would be done with any of these firearms" but was just trying to make money by selling them. He said the teen was "extremely remorseful" and had continued his education during detention.

Frobish agreed, as he went through the factors he was considering in sentencing, that Sullivan intended no harm, but added that he could not have known for certain that ammunition might have been at the school, creating the potential for tragedy by bringing guns there.

The judge noted that Sullivan has been expelled for two years, and will have employment problems "and a host of other problems" in the future because of a felony conviction.

Until February 2007, Sullivan had a "fairly regular use of cannabis," illegal conduct he did "because he thinks he can get away with it." A presentence report, Frobish noted, said that it was not likely Sullivan would "engage earnestly" in counseling as a term of probation.    

The judge, referring to Huerta's probation sentence, said that Sullivan, by bringing the guns to school, created "the possibility of tragedy" and that Sullivan, unlike Huerta, had a "significant criminal history."

"Mr. Sullivan did not learn from his first scrape with the law. He just didn't get it," the judge said just before pronouncing sentence.

Pontiac Daily News