Little jail time in Tenn. teacher sex shooting

By: AP
By: AP

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- A Tennessee man convicted in the fatal shooting of his teacher wife's student lover will spend 47 more days in jail, followed by 12 years on probation, a judge ruled at a sentencing hearing Friday.

Eric McLean, 33, faced life in prison when he was tried for murder in the 2007 slaying of 18-year-old Sean Powell, the lover of his now ex-wife, Erin McLean. But a Knox County jury in September convicted him of the lesser charge of reckless homicide.

No one was completely satisfied with Friday's outcome: The victim's family felt the conviction and the sentence were too lenient and the defense was upset about the unusually long probation ordered by Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz on a last-minute request by prosecutors.

"I just want to apologize," the lanky McLean said before sentencing, turning to face Powell's sobbing family on the first row of the small courtroom.

"I think about him all the time," McLean said of Powell. "His death is going to haunt me forever. I never intended to hurt him. ... I am sorry for everyone, for his family especially. I wish I could go back and change things, but I really can't. I am just sorry."

Powell's family clearly didn't believe him or accept the apology.

"I can't see it was a mistake or an accident," Scarlett Powell said of the death of the troubled boy she raised as her own for 12 years. She called McLean a "master manipulator."

"No, no. That was premeditated, first-degree murder," birth mother Debra Flynn of Nashville told reporters outside the courtroom. "Eric McLean, you don't want to know what I want to say to him because it is not nice. He murdered my son ... and he deserves more time."

Powell's stepbrother Joey Jacks said, "If my brother had lived, Eric McLean would have gotten more time."

But Leibowitz sentenced McLean to the maximum four years for the crime, and ordered him to spend a total of 90 days in jail. McLean already served 43 days awaiting bond. He was taken into custody immediately to begin serving the remaining 47 days. He should be out by Christmas.

Prosecutor Bill Crabtree urged raising the probation to eight years beyond the sentence, saying he was "offended" by McLean's show of remorse. The judge consented. She said McLean has a clean record and many other factors in his favor, but she worried about the lack of emotional control that led to the shooting.

If McLean, who hopes to finish his college degree and become a high school band director, violates probation in the next 12 years, he could have to serve the full four-year sentence in prison.

Defense attorney Bruce Poston blamed prosecutors for trying to "salvage something from what the evidence and the jury said this was" - not a murder, but an accidental killing. Poston said he will appeal the sentence.

McLean admitted shooting Powell, whom he caught having sex with his wife. But McLean said the shooting on March 10, 2007, was an accident. He said he pointed a high-powered rifle at Powell to get him to leave the McLeans' home. The teen reached for the gun, it went off and killed the teen instantly. Instead of trying to help the victim, McLean fled.

He was arrested the next day walking along railroad tracks. "Last night was a mistake," he told the officer.

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