By Regina F. Graham
A Massachusetts woman who encouraged her boyfriend to kill himself in dozens of text messages was sentenced to prison on Thursday.
Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz said Michelle Carter will only have to serve 15 months behind bars and the rest of the two-and-a-half years sentence will be suspended.
Once she is released, she will be on probation for five years.
The judge granted a defence motion that would keep Carter out of jail until her appeals in Massachusetts courts are exhausted. Carter was convicted in June of involuntary manslaughter. Moniz said her final instruction to Conrad Roy III caused his death, according to the Daily Mail.
Before the sentencing announcement, several family members of the victim provided heartbreaking statements that shared how much he is missed and called for Carter to be sentenced to the maximum prison time.
The victim's father cried while reading his emotional statement to the judge.
"We all felt he was heading in the right direction and over the worst of it," his father said of his son's depression. 'He had such a bright future and Michelle Carter exploited my son's weaknesses.
"She used him as a pawn and she has not shown any remorse. Where was her humanity? How he could she behave so viciously?"
"I will never be an aunt to Conrad's children, he was my best friend," his sister, Camden, told the judge while on the stand.
Carter was tried as a youthful offender, so the judge had several options for sentencing and could have committed her to a Department of Youth Services facility until she turns 21 on August 11.
The prosecution argued for a sentence of 7 to 12 years in prison, while her defence attorney, Joseph Cataldo asked to give her five years of probation.
"The fact that [Carter is] still at that young age offers a greater promise of rehabilitation," Moniz said.
"I have not found that her age or level of maturity or even her mental illness, have any significant impact on her actions. She is bright young lady, did well In school.
"And I am satisfied that she was mindful of the actions she delivered."
Assistant District Attorney Maryclare Flynn said: "Michelle Carter - her actions - killed Conrad Roy. She ended his life to better her own. She has been convicted of a very serious crime that merits serious punishment."
Carter was tried as a youthful offender, so the judge had several options for sentencing. He could have committed her to a Department of Youth Services facility until she turns 21 on August 11.
He could have also combined a DYS commitment with an adult sentence, or gave her an adult sentence of anything from probation to the maximum 20-year term.
Carter was 17 when 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.
The judge said those words constituted 'wanton and reckless conduct' under the manslaughter statute.
Carter and Roy met in Florida in 2012 while on holiday 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, Kim Bozzi, asked the judge to sentence Carter to the 20-year maximum in her victim impact statement.
"Twenty years may seem extreme but it is still 20 more than Conrad will ever have," her statement reads.
"I believe she should be kept far away from society. Take away the spotlight that she so desperately craves."
Carter's father said his daughter made "a tragic mistake," and asked for probation and continued counselling.
Where to get help:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757