Subway gunman Bernhard Goetz, who sparked a national debate after shooting four unarmed teenagers in what he called self-defense, was resentenced on Friday to a year in jail, the minimum term state law requires.
Goetz's original six-month sentence for illegally carrying a handgun was overturned by an appeals court in November because it fell below state gun laws that call for at least a one year and up to a seven-year sentence.The 40-year-old electronics technician was sent directly to Rikers Island, the city jail, to be housed in special segregation for his own safety, said Barry Slotnick, Goetz's attorney. Goetz could be released after serving as little as 51 days.
He had already spent nine days in jail after he was arrested in early 1985.
His body shook as he spoke and he looked pale and nervous at the sentencing.
Goetz, who said he shot the teenagers after they surrounded him and demanded $5, was cleared of attempted murder, assault, reckless endangerment and two other gun charges by a state jury in June 1986. One of the youths remains paralyzed by Goetz's bullet.
Goetz, who had been mugged twice, became a hero to some Americans who had grown weary of urban crime and sparked a heated debate over the right to self-defence.
Referring to prosecutor Gregory Waples, Goetz said, "He seems to think society needs to be protected from me - but society needs to be protected from criminals."
Goetz appealed to Justice Stephen Crane Friday not to impose a jail sentence.
"I feel the case is really more about the deterioration of society than it is about me," he told the judge.
Slotnick said his client should be exempted from time in prison because Goetz is a "special person."
"He is special because he is a product of the media and has been forced to live in a fishbowl for four years which is punishment enough," Slotnick said, later adding at a news conference that "there is no rhyme, reason or reality" to Goetz going to jail.
Goetz said in a speech last April to the New York City gun club he felt the judge "should have sentenced me to a testimonial dinner and a ticker-tape parade."
"I had to adhere to my original feelings at the time of the first sentencing," said Crane, who had given Goetz the original six-month sentence.
The courtroom was packed with Goetz's supporters, including 20 members of the Guardian Angels citizens' crime-fighting group, some of whose members have been charged with assualt for their vigilante-style enforcement.
The subway shooting also prompted charges of racism. Goetz is white; the four teenagers were black.