Deal reached in school shooting case; no contest plea entered

FLINT, Mich. - A man accused of carelessly storing the handgun that a 6-year-old allegedly used to kill a classmate pleaded no contest Tuesday to an involuntary manslaughter charge.

Jamelle James, 19, entered the plea in a deal with prosecutors, just as his trial was to start in the death of 6-year-old Kayla Rolland.

James previously had pleaded innocent to the charge. He would have faced up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

In exchange for the no contest plea, prosecutors agreed to ask the court for a sentence of no more than two years. A no contest plea isn't an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing purposes.

James accepted the deal just before jury selection was to begin, defense attorney Robert J. Polasek said. He remained in jail pending sentencing, which was set for Sept. 11.

''I am very pleased to obtain a conviction without having to go through a trial,'' Prosecutor Arthur Busch said.

Prosecutors had maintained James was negligent when he left the semiautomatic pistol in a shoe box in his bedroom. But the defense had said his client didn't own the gun and couldn't be held responsible for the shooting.

The boy, now 7, was accused of shooting Kayla to death in their first-grade classroom at Buell Elementary School near Flint on Feb. 29. However, because of his age he is not charged.

The boy had been living with James in what prosecutors described as a ''flophouse,'' where occupants traded guns and drugs. His mother left the boy and his 8-year-old brother at the house a week before the shooting after she was evicted from her home.

At James' preliminary hearing, the boy testified that he found the weapon in James' room.

Also living at the house was the boy's uncle, Sir Marcus Winfrey, 22, who pleaded guilty last month to possessing the stolen handgun.

James has already pleaded guilty in federal court to possessing a stolen 12-gauge shotgun found in the house after the shooting.

The boy was not charged because Michigan law says children under age 7 cannot form criminal intent. He told investigators he was only trying to scare the girl and that the shooting was an accident.


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