LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Herbert Lee who has been convicted in the deaths of four teenagers will be sentenced as a juvenile and not as an adult. Chief Juvenile Defender, Pete Schuler said the 18-year-old could be released in a couple of months.
Lee has been behind bars since the December 2008 crash that killed brothers Jemar, Demar, and Marc Claybrooks and their friend Aaron Shields.
Lee, who was 16 at the time, was told to take the Claybrooks and Aaron Shields home after a Youth Alive event. Police tried to pull him over when the car's plate showed up as stolen, so he sped off and ended up crashing into a tree, killing his passengers. Lee was subsequently charged with four counts of murder.
After listening to days of testimony, a jury found Lee guilty of a lesser charge. He was found guilty of manslaughter to the second degree.
Schuler praised Lee's defense attorney.
"I think they did an excellent job of arguing that we were dealing with a kid that did something when he was 16 years old," Schuler said.
Immediately after the verdict, defense attorney Sheila Seadler requested that Lee be sentenced under juvenile guidelines, since jurors came back with a verdict on a lesser charge.
"Normally, there is a separate sentencing, but the law requires that I treat Mr. Lee as a juvenile, not an adult," Judge Perry told the court Friday morning. "And I will do that separately."
Perry thanked the jurors for their time and dismissed them.
"It was a horrible act," Schuler said, "because he was 16 and his developmental maturity and that sort of thing. He shouldn't be treated the same way as an adult."
Since state law requires Lee to be sentenced as a juvenile, Schuler believes the judge will give him the maximum sentence, factoring in his criminal record. Schuler says Lee does not have any prior felonies. Under juvenile sentencing guidelines, the maximum sentence typically means a person remains in state custody age 18 - which is Lee's age now.
"If you are 17-and-a-half or older, you can be committed for a year up until your 19th birthday," Schuler said.
Schuler says Lee turns 19 in April, which means he could only spend a few more months behind bars. According to Schuler by law, the jury that convicted Lee would not have known he could be released in less than a year on a lesser charge.
"I guess the thinking behind that is they don't want the term of years to influence what the verdict is," Schuler said. "They want the jury to rule on the facts as instructed."
Lee's sentencing hearing is scheduled December 3rd at 1 p.m., and Schuler says it could be a closed proceeding. We were unsuccessful in our attempts to contact prosecutors for their reaction to Judge Perry's ruling.
The Claybrooks family and the Shields did not comment Friday. Christopher 2X shared a few words on their behalf.
"This is the reality of the justice system and they're willing to live with it," 2X said. "It's not comfortable. They knew if Herbert Lee got convicted of manslaughter second or reckless homicide it could go back to juvenile court."
Herbert Lee's grandfather, Herbert Lee Sr., says the situation has been hard on everyone involved.
"We feel sorry for the young boys that died and our heart goes out to their family."