Jace Cunningham, 30, who was found guilty in May of multiple counts of assault after he fired shots in Petersburg and aimed a rifle at a PPD officer, was sentenced to more than six years in jail and five years of probation Tuesday afternoon.
Superior Court Judge William Carey presided over the three hour long sentencing hearing in Ketchikan where Cunningham has been held since his trial.
The State asked that Cunningham be sentenced to the maximum possible punishment for the most serious offense, which in this case was 10 years due to the 3rd degree aggravated assault conviction. The State also reinforced the fact that Cunningham was convicted of two aggravated robberies in Tennessee ten years ago and that he is a danger to the public.
Cunningham said, in reference to his criminal activities in Tennessee, his friend robbed a gas station unbeknownst to him while he was filling his gas tank. Cunningham said he then drove his friend to another gas station where his friend robbed an additional gas station, again unaware of his friend’s actions.
Cunningham said he turned himself in to police years later for the offense on his own accord and that he is not the “monster” the State is making him out to be.
“I’m just not buying it, Mr. Cunningham, that you didn’t know what was going on and that you weren’t involved,” Carey said later. “You plead guilty to serious felonies.”
Carey recognized that Cunningham “has some positive qualities,” that he was articulate and intelligent and that rehabilitation was a possibility.
Cunningham’s defense attorney Michael Heiser asked that the court impose a sentence that reflects Cunningham’s ability to be a productive member of society—citing several letters written by respected and longstanding residents of Petersburg on his behalf and that he wasn’t a threat to the community.
“He has a lot to contribute to society,” Heiser said. “He has the community support that the State completely ignores, doesn’t want to believe exists…and that can’t be ignored.”
Carey questioned Heiser’s claims that Cunningham wasn’t a threat and an earlier claim that Cunningham only imposed a minimal fear of physical harm to the officers—particularly Sergeant Heidi Agner.
“The most serious aspect of this offense is the conduct towards Sergeant Agner,” Carey said. “She was scared to death and she had every reason to be. She had a man that just a few feet away was pointing an AR 15 directly at her advising her that she was within his scope. He’s just lucky he’s not dead.”
Cunningham’s offenses occurred on October 7, 2012.