Deal Reached in School Shooting Case

Tuesday, August 22nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A man reached a deal with prosecutors, avoiding trial on accusations he carelessly stored a handgun that a 6-year-old boy allegedly used to kill a classmate at school.

Jamelle James, 19, agreed to plead no contest to an involuntary manslaughter charge in the death of 6-year-old Kayla Rolland, Cindy Gilliam of the Genesee County clerk's office said. His trial had been set to start Tuesday.

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 to impose a sentence of no more than two years, Gilliam said. A no contest plea isn't an admission of guilt but is treated as such for sentencing purposes.

James remained in jail pending sentencing. No date has been set.

Calls to Assistant Prosecutor Daniel Stamos and defense attorney Robert J. Polasek were not immediately returned.

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

The boy, now 7, is accused of shooting Kayla to death in their first-grade classroom at Buell Elementary School near Flint on Feb. 29.

The boy had been living with James in what prosecutors described as a ``flophouse,'' where occupants traded guns and drugs. The 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 U.S. District Court to possessing a stolen .12-gauge shotgun found in the home after the shooting.

The boy is not charged in the case. Under Michigan law, children under age 7 cannot form criminal intent. He told investigators he had only been trying to scare the girl and that the shooting was an accident.

Earlier this month, a judge ruled that the boy and his brother and sister should be placed in separate foster homes because of family and behavioral problems. The ruling came after a state social worker said they had become a burden for the maternal aunt who was caring for them.