Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Jared Johns was sentenced to 18 months on supervised probation.
By Jon Johnson
SAFFORD – A man who shot his stepchildren with a BB gun will not be incarcerated but will instead spend the next 18 months on supervised probation.
Jared James Johns, 32, was sentenced by Greenlee County Superior Court Judge Monica L. Stauffer on Wednesday to 18 months probation. Judge Stauffer said Johns will also have to take part in counseling and parenting classes and continue to follow any orders regarding orders of protection or family law court rulings as to contact with his stepchildren.
Johns plead guilty last month to charges of aggravated assault on a minor – an undesignated Class-6 felony, and assault on a minor – a Class-1 misdemeanor. Johns was originally charged with three counts of aggravated assault on a minor and disorderly conduct/fighting. While the plea agreement stipulated a probation sentence, Judge Stauffer still could have sentenced him up to a year in jail.
Additionally, Johns could end up with the more serious charge of aggravated assault dismissed. The plea states that if Johns completes the term of supervised probation ordered by the court, the state will dismiss the aggravated assault charge. As part of the plea, sentencing on the aggravated assault charge is waived until “such a time it becomes in the interest of justice to sentence the defendant, or the defendant violates probation.”
During sentencing Wednesday, Judge Stauffer found multiple mitigating issues, including family support, low risk of re-offending, and Johns’ military service.
According to the plea agreement, Johns is guaranteed supervised probation but still faces up to a year in jail at the discretion of the court.
The charges are in regard to a trip Johns took with his stepchildren to the Gila Box area in which he reportedly intentionally shot them with a BB-gun.
According to a Graham County Sheriff’s Office report, the incident occurred on April 17. The children involved are ages 13, 11, and 10. A 7-year-old who was also present was not shot.
In interviews with the alleged victims, the children advised they were shooting cans filled with dirt when Johns asked to shoot and shot the 10-year-old in the leg – possibly on accident. Afterward, Johns said the BB gun didn’t hurt and proceeded to shoot himself, according to the children.
Johns then shot the 11-year-old in the leg and the 13-year-old began to run and was shot in the leg as well, according to the children’s interviews. The 13-year-old and 11-year-old also advised that Johns told them he was going to shoot them prior to doing so. The deputy noted seeing red welts on the legs of the children where they said they were shot.
During initial police interviews, Johns and his wife both insisted Johns hadn’t shot the children and any injury must have been caused by accident by the children themselves.
On Wednesday, Johns told the court that he acted in an immature and irresponsible manner and that he was sorry for his actions.
“It was not my intention to harm by stepchildren,” Johns said. “What I did that day showed poor choice.”
Johns said he wants to repair his relationship with his stepchildren and be a good example so that “our family can be whole again . . . I’m willing to do whatever is necessary.”
Both Johns’ defense attorney Channen Day and Graham County Attorney L. Scott Bennett used words such as “reckless”, “horseplay” and “poor judgment” for what Johns did but did not see any signs of malice.
“Jared Johns’ recklessness and his poor judgment have reaped a whirlwind upon him, including putting children in the middle of a dispute that they should not want them to be a part of,” Day said. “Your honor, I believe that Jared Johns feels tremendous remorse for his actions.”
Bennett said while he is sympathetic to the victims and the victims’ family, he believed poor judgment was involved and said the plea agreement speaks for itself.
“I think we have a very good resolution that takes into account all those considerations,” Bennett said.