CROWN POINT — A Merrillville man sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison for shooting a childhood friend will remain in the Lake County Jail while awaiting trial on a 2016 murder charge.
Garrett D. Smith Jr., 21, was convicted in March of aggravated battery, battery resulting in serious bodily injury, battery and criminal recklessness for shooting a former friend Dec. 1, 2016, in the 1100 block of Jennings Street in Gary.
The murder charge alleging Smith fatally shot 19-year-old James Clark the afternoon of Dec. 2, 2016, in the 4200 block of Kentucky Street was severed from the original case. Ballistics evidence shows Smith used the same gun in the separate shootings, court records allege.
Smith is set for trial on the murder charge starting July 29.
Smith shot his childhood friend after the man put Smith out of the house, defense attorney Scott King said.
"His reaction was completely inappropriate, juvenile and, yes, criminal," King said. "But it was not calculated. It was not planned."
King said the conviction was Smith's first on a felony charge and asked Vasquez to consider Smith's limited criminal history a mitigating factor.
Lake County Deputy Prosecutor David Rooda said Smith's criminal history showed the opposite.
Smith was an admitted teenage gang member, Rooda said.
He faced a gun case as a teenager, was placed on probation and violated those terms, he said.
"Does he clean up?" Rooda said. "No. He shoots into the house of his good friend."
Smith was released on bond in the current case, but was arrested on a gun charge and returned to jail. He also was convicted of possession of marijuana in Tippecanoe County while free on bond, Rooda said.
Rooda asked Lake Criminal Court Judge Salvador Vasquez to sentence Smith to 18 years in prison.
Vasquez said Smith's behavior showed he's manipulative and violent.
"I cannot help but to find Mr. Smith failed in his obligation to live a law-abiding life after being granted bail," Vasquez said.
However, the judge declined to consider the pending murder charge while sentencing Smith for the battery and criminal recklessness convictions.
Vasquez sentenced Smith to 10 years for aggravated battery and four years for criminal recklessness, to be served concurrently.
Smith received credit for 430 days in jail. He must serve 75% of his sentence, Vasquez said.