A teenager entered dual pleas of guilty and guilty but mentally ill today in a 1999 school shooting that left six fellow students wounded.
A judge will consider the results of mental evaluations on 17-year-old T.J. Solomon before deciding which of the two pleas to accept.
If Judge Sidney Nation accepts the guilty pleas to all 29 charges, including aggravated assault, cruelty to children and weapons violations, Solomon could be sentenced to up to 211 years in prison.
If the judge accepts the guilty-but-mentally-ill plea, Solomon would still go to prison but would receive psychiatric treatment under the care of prison doctors.
Year of Legal Wrangling Solomon confessed to opening fire on hundreds of students in the commons area at the school in Conyers, about 25 miles east of Atlanta, a month after the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado.
Solomon faced trial as an adult on 29 charges that included aggravated assault, cruelty to children and weapons violations. Appearing gaunt in baggy jeans, a white button-down shirt and tennis shoes, Solomon was not chained or handcuffed in the courtroom. He told Judge Nation he signed it without any coercion, but made no other statement.
Defense attorney Ed Garland said they entered the two pleas because the district attorney’s office was resistant to accepting the guilty but mentally ill plea.
District Attorney Richard Read said there was no plea bargain.
Read noted that several psychiatrists and psychologists have stated that Solomon “knew right from wrong” and “appreciated his actions.”
The plea, entered during a brief hearing in Rockdale County Superior Court, follows more than a year of legal wrangling in the case. Lawyers for Solomon have argued that he should be hospitalized for mental illness, but the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled the teen was not out of touch with reality at the time of the shootings.
Sentencing will be early next month.