A 17-year-old Schuele Street youth was ordered today to spend 3 1/2 years in prison for firing the handgun that seriously injured a Buffalo school bus aide who was helping young children off the bus.
James J. Robbs Jr. apologized to bus aide Mary Byrd before Erie County Judge Michael Pietruszka imposed the sentence.
John R. Nuchereno, Robbs' attorney, called the defendant "an otherwise good kid" and made an impassioned plea to have him adjudicated as a youthful offender, sparing him a felony record. But the judge said he found no mitigating circumstances to justify that ruling.
Nuchereno said Robbs bought an illegal handgun after another East Side teen had shot at him and a friend.
He called the unidentified teen, who was standing in the vicinity of Byrd's bus near East Ferry Street and Donovan Avenue, "the real intended victim" of what he characterized as an ill-timed self-defense move at about 4 p.m. last June 2.
Prosecutor Kenneth F. Case said Robbs' decision to get a gun "to settle a score" wounded an innocent woman and terrorized small children.
Case told the judge a pregnant woman who was meeting a child that got off Byrd's bus dropped to the ground to shield the child during the shooting, risking the life of her unborn baby. The prosecutor said a number of the traumatized children underwent counseling after the shooting.
Pietruszka, who refrained from commenting on the details of the shooting, also told Robbs that he will be subject to five years of "postrelease" supervision by state authorities after he he serves his prison term.
In his bid for a youthful offender declaration, Nuchereno had argued that his client had a legitimate defense had the case gone to trial because the intended victim had been trying to kill Robbs for months.
Nuchereno said Robbs pulled out the gun and fired only because he mistakenly thought the other youth, who was standing near the Byrd bus, was pulling a gun out of his own pocket. The attorney said Robbs wanted to plead guilty to spare Byrd a trial.
Under a pretrial arrangement, Robbs pleaded guilty Dec. 4 to a reduced charge of first-degree attempted assault, a violent felony. He had been indicted on charges of attempted murder, which carries a possible 25-year prison term
Case said Byrd, 52, a school bus aide for 15 years, had agreed to the plea deal.