Defense lawyers called Bradley Hensley’s shooting of a “Judas Escariot” friend an alleged “love triangle.” Prosecutors balked, calling the shooting “in cold blood” after Hensley spent a day abusing alcohol and drugs.
Prosecutors wanted Hensley to serve at least 15 years in prison for shooting Shawn Emery Smith in September 2016. Hensley’s lawyers wanted five years of house arrest or a three-year prison sentence followed by probation.
Yet what visiting Judge Paul Burch said mattered most. Burch sentenced Hensley to eight years in prison after Hensley pleaded guilty to attempted murder.
Hensley shot Smith in the abdomen, back and leg, in the western York County incident near Smyrna in September 2016, prosecutors said. He then fled and was caught two days later in a motel in Cherokee County. He faced as much as 30 years in prison.
Defense lawyers argued in court the case was an alleged “love triangle,” but prosecutors said in court that there was no evidence that there was an affair.
One of Hensley’s lawyers, Michael Brown said after court – after calling the victim “Judas Escariot” in court – that he was satisfied with the eight-year sentence.
“Despite the fact that it was a love triangle case, you still can’t shoot people,” Brown said after court.
Smith, a Gulf War combat veteran whom prosecutors said still has problems from his injuries sustained in the shooting, was in court in the gallery but did not speak to the court.
In court before he was sentenced, Hensley looked back at Smith, the victim, in the back of the courtroom and said, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done it ... that wasn’t me.”
But prosecutors said it was Hensley who spent the day of Sept. 9, 2016, using drugs and alcohol then getting a gun to use on Smith.
Smith was home alone at the time of the shooting and was shot after Hensley was lying in wait for Smith, said Misti Shelton, the 16th Circuit assistant solicitor who prosecuted the case. All the evidence Hensley – an admitted abuser of cocaine, alcohol and other drugs despite working at a hospital in Pineville, N.C. –had of an alleged affair was “suspicion and paranoia,” Shelton said.
Shelton said there was “no justification” for the shooting.
“He (Hensley) drank all day, he bought an eight-ball of cocaine and went through it all, then he bought a gun and bought crack,” Shelton said in court. “He went and bought a gun and waited ... and then he shot Mr. Smith three times. He did not deserve to be shot. This man got shot three times in cold blood and he could have died.”
Many of Hensley’s family and friends told the judge Hensley was a good person with no criminal record.
Defense lawyer Zachary Merritt said the day of the shooting Hensley “drank 16 beers” and had taken Xanax, as well as taken other prescribed drugs from a suicide attempt weeks before.
“Mr. Hensley made a terrible decision and has to pay for it,” Merritt said in court. But Merritt argued the alleged love triangle was unique and caused the incident.
“This was not a random act of violence or a drug deal gone bad,” Merritt argued.