TAUNTON, Mass. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Massachusetts woman who encouraged her boyfriend to kill himself in dozens of text messages and told him to “get back in” a truck filled with toxic gas was sentenced 2 and half years in jail and probation for involuntary manslaughter.
Michelle Carter could have faced up to 20 years.
Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz said Carter has to serve 15 months in jail before being eligible for probation. She will be on probation for five years.
The judge also granted a stay while the case is appealed.
“I don’t understand how a month ago, it’s a guilty verdict, giving the family hope that there might be some type of justice, to just have her go home tonight and have a nice meal,” Roy’s family member, Jimmy Brodeur, said outside the courthouse.
The judge made the case that Carter can be rehabilitated.
“This court must and has considered a balance between rehabilitation — the promise that rehabilitation would work — and a punishment for the actions that have occurred,” he said.
Carter was convicted in June by a judge who said her final instruction to Conrad Roy III caused his death.
She was 17 when the 18-year-old Roy was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in July 2014.
In dozens of text messages, Carter urged Roy to follow through on his talk of taking his own life. “The time is right and you are ready … just do it babe,” Carter wrote in a text the day he killed himself.
The sensational trial was closely watched on social media, in part because of the insistent tone of Carter’s text messages.
“You can’t think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don’t get why you aren’t,” Carter wrote in one text.
Carter’s lawyer, Joseph Cataldo, argued that Roy was determined to kill himself and nothing Carter did could change that. He said Carter initially tried to talk Roy out of it and urged him to get professional help, but eventually went along with his plan. Cataldo also argued that Carter’s words amounted to free speech protected by the First Amendment.
In convicting Carter, the judge focused his ruling on Carter telling Roy to “get back in” after he climbed out of his truck as it was filling with carbon monoxide and told her he was afraid.
The judge said those words constituted “wanton and reckless conduct” under the manslaughter statute.
Carter and Roy met in Florida in 2012 while both were on vacation with their families. After that, they only met in person a handful of times. Their relationship consisted mainly of texting.
Both teens struggled with depression. Carter had been treated for anorexia, and Roy had made earlier suicide attempts.
Roy’s aunt had asked the judge to sentence Carter to the 20-year maximum.
“Michelle Carter exploited my son’s weaknesses and used him as a pawn in her own well being,” his father said.
Carter’s father said his daughter made “a tragic mistake,” and asked for probation and continued counseling.
Carter was tried as a youthful offender.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)