When a person is sentenced as a first offender in Georgia, it offers a second chance.
If the person completes the punishment without further run-ins with the law, at the end of the sentence, the person can truthfully say he or she doesn’t have a felony conviction.
Thursday, 22-year-old Darin Batts pleaded guilty to shooting another man in 2013, leaving him for dead and stealing his car.
Batts’ father, mother and pastor spoke on his behalf, pleading with the judge for mercy.
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Darren Blassingame recounted how he had been sentenced as a first offender after he’d stolen a bicycle at age 17.
He said the judge’s mercy offered him the opportunity to later earn two master’s degrees and have a career in the health care field.
Blasingame asked Judge Howard Simms to consider sentencing his son as a first offender so he has a better chance at life once he’s completed his punishment.
Simms ultimately sentenced Batts to 15 years in prison followed by five years on probation.
He agreed to treat Batts as a first offender, noting that he’s never sentenced someone to such a lengthy prison term with that provision.
If Batts runs afoul of the law anytime in the next 20 years, he can be resentenced to additional time behind bars.
Prosecutor Sandra Matson said Jeffrey Postell lived in the Tindall Heights neighborhood in September 2013.
He knew Batts through a friend and was known in the neighborhood as someone who would give folks a ride in his car in exchange for money.
On Sept. 27, 2013, Postell and Batts were at a cookout when Batts told Postell he wanted to go pick up some “females” and bring them back to the party.
Postell and Batts made a stop on Riverside Drive, then drove to Napier Avenue. Batts told Postell to stop and the two got out of the car, she said.
“He didn’t think anything was up,” Matson said of Postell.
Batts pulled out a gun, demanded money and shot Postell at “point blank range” in the abdomen, she said.
After Batts left in his car, Postell walked to a nearby house, where a woman called police.
The car was found later, with the GPS module removed.
Before issuing the sentence, Simms asked Batts, “Why did this happen?”
Batts replied, “I don’t know, sir.”
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.