Juvenile admits shooting friend; pleads guilty to reduced charge

jkegley@herald-leader.comFebruary 5, 2011 

Jamar Mays, who was scheduled to go to trial later this month for the shooting death of his best friend, Ali Shalash, in November 2009, pleaded guilty Friday.

Mays had initially blamed the shooting on a masked gunman. But on Friday, Mays took responsibility for the shooting and entered a guilty plea for second-degree manslaughter.

When Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone asked Mays, 17, what he did, the teenager told the judge that he and Ali had been smoking in his room that day and they were fooling around with a gun.

"It accidentally went off and shot Ali," Mays said during Friday's hearing in Fayette Circuit Court.

"I'm sorry for it," he added.

Mays and Shalash, 17, had been home alone at Mays' house on Dorset Drive on Nov. 23. Mays told officers that a masked man had fired a gun through an open window, hitting Shalash in the head, but investigators couldn't find evidence of an outside shooter. Officers later found a .45-caliber Hi-Point handgun under the seat of a parked car, and a .45 bullet casing in a trash can in the kitchen.

Attorneys had tried to negotiate a plea agreement for several months. In September, Mays' attorney, public defender Tom Griffiths, said the Department of Public Advocacy and the Commonwealth's Attorney's office had been unable to negotiate a plea agreement. A jury trial was tentatively scheduled for Feb. 14 to 16.

In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed to reduce the murder charge to manslaughter and to dismiss charges of tampering with evidence and being a minor in possession of a handgun. Mays was 16 when the shooting occurred.

The commonwealth recommended a 10-year prison sentence. Mays would have faced 20 years to life in prison if he had been convicted of murder.

"I think that the result today was a fair result," said Mays' attorney, public defender Tom Griffiths.

Griffiths said that Mays' taking responsibility for the shooting "is an important step for healing what was a terrible event for everyone involved."

The mothers of both Mays and Shalash were in the courtroom, but neither wanted to speak before Mays is sentenced.

Mays is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 24.

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