Original Case Details
This case garnered national attention when it first occurred. It involves a 55-year-old retired firefighter, who shot at a lost teenager who had stopped at his house to ask for directions. The teenager was black, and the man was white. The man, Jeffrey Zeigler, was convicted by jury of assault with intent to do great bodily harm as well as felony firearm for shooting at the teenager as he ran away from the house. Luckily, the teenager was not shot in the incident. Surveillance video from Zeigler’s home showed the teenager running away at the time the shots were fired. Zeigler was sentenced to 2-10 years in prison for the assault charge as well as an additional two years for the felony firearm conviction.
How the Sentencing Guidelines Work
Former Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Potts sentenced Zeigler outside the state sentencing guidelines when she sentenced him to 2-10 years for the assault charge. Sentencing guidelines are designed to determine an appropriate range of time for sentencing on any felony charge. The sentencing guidelines score a variety of factors in determining these numbers, which depend on the nature and severity of the crime. When someone is sentenced outside the guidelines, whether above or below, the sentencing judge is expected to give reasons why he or she came to that conclusion for sentence. In this case, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the “sentence imposed by the trial court must be proportionate to the seriousness of the circumstances surrounding both the offense and the offender.” The Court further stated, “the trial court did not adequately explain why its departure sentence of 2 to 10 years was more proportionate than a difference sentence would have been.” What this simply says is that the court sentenced Zeigler outside of the guidelines without the appropriate reasoning stated. Zeigler will now go back to Oakland County Court to be resentenced. When Judge Potts retired, the case was reassigned to Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Jeffery Matis, who will sentence Zeigler.
What Happens Next?
Zeigler now gets to go back to the sentencing phase of his case. At this stage he will try to convince the judge that he deserves a shorter sentence than the one that was handed down by former Judge Potts. A resentencing can only save Zeigler the two years he received for his assault conviction as the two years he received for the felony firearm conviction are mandatory. When Zeigler is sentenced in front of a new judge in Matis, he is opening the possibility that the sentence could even be more severe. If Judge Matis finds that it is appropriate to sentence Zeigler outside of the guidelines as Judge Potts did, then he could sentence Zeigler to even longer in prison if he sees fit. Whatever sentence he gets for the assault conviction, he will have to serve an additional two years after that for his felony firearm conviction. If you are convicted of a felony and a felony firearm and are sentenced to probation for the felony, you will serve two years in prison due to the felony firearm conviction. A felony firearm conviction is an automatic two-year prison in addition to any other jail or prison term you get as a result of the underlying felony conviction.
Any Further Questions?
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or being investigated for one, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan. This experience extends not only to adult cases, but also to juvenile charges. We are not a general practice firm. We are a team of criminal defense attorneys; it’s all we do. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone with questions relating to a possible or existing criminal charge against them or a loved one. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.