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April 26--  The family of a shooting victim is objecting to what they perceive as an unjust sentence in Toombs County Superior Court Thursday.

{mosimage}Sixty-two-year old Norman NeeSmith pled guilty to felony involuntary manslaughter in the death of 22-year-old Justin Patterson in the early morning hours of January 29, 2011.  He awakened to find Patterson and his 18-year-old brother, Sha'von, having sex in seperate bedroms of his mobile home with a girl he had raised, 18-year-old Danielle Rozier, and a 14-year-old girl.  Authorities said the younger girl invited the boys to the house.

Armed with a .22 caliber pistol, NeeSmith ordered the boys out of the bedrooms and threatened to call the younger girl's grandfather.  Police say NeeSmith was bloodied when he was pushed against a wall and fired his gun as the boys fled out a side door.  One bullet hit the ceiling and another struck Patterson in the side.  His body was found later outside in a nearby yard.  His brother left the scene after Patterson told him, "I'm not going to make it."

NeeSmith was initially charged with felony murder by District Attorney Hayward Altman, however, a year later he agreed to accept an involuntary manslaughter guilty plea just days before the case was scheduled for trial.

Patterson's father, Julius, told the court that decision angered his family who had been told the case would go to trial.

"My family and I are angry and disturbed by the fact that on February 27, 2012, the day the jury was scheduled to be selected, NeeSmith made a plea  contrary to what Altman said he would recommend.  Altman did not make us aware that he would recommend a guilty plea with charges being downgraded to involuntary manslaughter," he said.

The District Attorney said the decison to accept the plea is the most difficult decision he has had to make since taking office, but he disagrees that the Pattersons were not told in advance.

"I will not criticize the Pattersons because they lost a son, but they were informed early on that there was a high potential that we would plead this down to involuntary manslaughter.  We had that conversation on the Friday before the trial was supposed to start on Monday.  They were represented by attorneys at that time and we actually had a discussion later on about the actual plea negotiations after we accepted a plea on that day," Altman said.

{mosimage}Patterson's mother, Deede, cried when she heard the sentence. Earlier she told the court none of this would have happened if NeeSmith had called the police when he discovered her sons in his house.  "The question will always remain, why didn't he call the police.  Why?  Me and my family will have to visit my son's grave the rest of our lives," she sobbed.

Before being sentenced, NeeSmith faced the Patterson family and friends and said he was sorry.  "I'm sorry this happened to y'all.  It hurt me as much as y'all and people don't understand that.  A big part of me left that day, too, and I'm sorry, that's all I can say," he said.

Judge Cathy Palmer sentenced NeeSmith to ten years probation with a year to 14 months to be served in a probation detention center.

Among those covering the sentencing were a reporter and cameraman from the New York Times.  The paper ran a story earlier noting that unlike the the Travon Martin case in Florida, the killing of Patterson has eluded the spotlight.

The District Attorney says the only similarity between the two cases is that they are both tragic .

"Anytime you have the loss of a young man, it makes it very tough.  Here you have to deal with the fact that this occurred inside the defendant's home.  When he woke up, he didn't know what was going on.  He didn't invite them in and he woke up and heard noises and when you look at his right to defend his home and their rights, it was a tough decision and a tragic situation.  I feel for both the Patterson family and the NeeSmith family," Altman said.