Steven Jones was sentenced to six years in prison on Tuesday afternoon, marking an end to the court case that began after the shooting on NAU's campus more than four years ago.
In front of a packed courtroom in Flagstaff, Judge Dan Slayton took a deep breath before he shared his sentencing decision. Jones was facing a prison term of five to 10 years.
Slayton cited Jones’ age, his remorse and cooperation showed during the police investigation, and his cooperation with pretrial service as reasons to lighten the 23-year-old’s time in prison. On the other hand, Slayton listed the immeasurable weight of harm to the victims and the use of his firearm as strikes against Jones.
“I’m not kidding myself or flattering myself or anyone here thinking that [my sentence] is going to bring peace or closure. It’s not going to happen today,” Slayton said.
In January, Jones pleaded guilty to manslaughter and three counts of aggravated assault for shooting and killing Colin Brough and seriously injuring Nick Prato, Kyle Zientek and Nick Piring. The decision to plead guilty helped avoid a five-week retrial for all parties involved. Jones had reported to jail before his sentencing almost a month ago, and was wearing a blue Coconino County Sheriff's Office jumpsuit and shackles in the courtroom on Tuesday.
Jones was brought to tears during the sentencing hearing as he sat with his head down and listened to video of his police interview, when he learned that he had killed Colin Brough. He was given credit for 212 days served in jail toward his final prison sentence and will be eligible for parole after serving 85% of his sentence.
During the sentencing, Jones spoke directly to the parents of the young man he killed four years earlier.
“I should probably say that if it were possible, I would, in a heartbeat, right now, trade places with Colin Brough. If he could be at home with his family and I could be dead, I would do that right now,” Jones said. “But that’s not possible”
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After the hearing, Colin Brough’s father Doug Brough said he didn’t believe anything Jones said to his family or to the court. He said in his mind, Jones hadn’t showed any remorse throughout the trial.
“He’s never apologized to anybody until today because he had to get his sentenced reduced,” he said.
Doug Brough said the sentencing decision, frankly, sucked, but he said it’s not all bad. He said because of the plea agreement, Jones was going to prison with a felony conviction after he admitted to killing his son.
“He’s a murderer, and that’s how he should be classified for the rest of his life,” he said.
Claudia Brough, Colin’s mother, shared her story of how her life has changed after her son’s death, saying her dog and father both died soon after her son. The stress and grief from the series of deaths led her to attempt suicide. She said she recovered through the strength and connection to her family, but that this experience has changed her.
“You could have five children, but the one that is hurting is the one you want to go to,” Claudia said, in tears.
Jones attorney Christopher Dupont cited private investigator interviews that were barred as evidence in the retrial that recast the light on Colin Brough, the surviving victims, and their Delta Chi fraternity.
Dupont said their research turned up videos, ones that had been previously barred from trial, showing massive fights with a mob of Delta Chi members. The defense’s further research alleged that fraternity members had been racists, ejecting people of color out of their parties.
After, attorney Burges McCowan said they were happy with Slayton’s decision.
“No one was ever going to be happy with the result of this case,” McCowan said. “I think Judge Slayton used his best judgement.”
Scott Buffon can be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter @scottbuffon or by phone at (928) 556-2250.