Michelle Carter and her attorney Joseph Cataldo stand to hear Judge Lawrence Moniz announce his verdict in Bristol Juvenile Court in Taunton, Mass. on June 16, 2017.

Credit: Glenn Silva/Fairhaven Neighborhood News, Pool, via AP

Michelle Carter Sentenced To 15 Months In Jail

August 3, 2017

TAUNTON, Mass. (AP) — A woman who encouraged her suicidal boyfriend to kill himself in dozens of text messages and told him to "get back in" a truck filled with toxic gas was sentenced Thursday to 15 months in jail for involuntary manslaughter.

Michelle Carter, now 20, was convicted in June by a judge who said her final instruction to Conrad Roy III caused his death. Carter was 17 when the 18-year-old Roy was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in July 2014.

Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz gave Carter a 2½-year jail sentence but said she had to serve only 15 months of that. He also sentenced her to five years of probation. He granted a defense motion that would keep Carter out of jail until her appeals in Massachusetts courts are exhausted. She will still have to meet conditions of her probation. 

The judge called the case, which has garnered international attention, "a tragedy for two families."

Carter's lawyer, Joseph Cataldo, had asked the judge to spare his client any jail time and instead give her five years of probation and require her to receive mental health counseling. He said Carter was struggling with mental health issues of her own — bulimia, anorexia and depression — during the time she urged Roy to kill himself.

"Miss Carter will have to live with the consequences of this for the rest of her life," Cataldo said. "This was a horrible circumstance that she completely regrets."

Moniz rejected this, saying, "I have not found that Ms.Carter's age or level of maturity — or even her mental illness — have any significant impact on her actions."

Moniz said notwithstanding the point the prosecution made — that Carter was only three months away from her 18th birthday at the time of the crime — she was still what is known as a ‘child before the court.’

"The fact that they are still of that the young age, offers a greater promise of rehabilitation," he said. "Children before the court charged with crimes are to be treated as children, in need of aid, encouragement, and guidance."

Prosecutor Maryclare Flynn called probation "just not reasonable punishment" for her role in Roy's death. Prosecutors asked the judge to send Carter to state prison for seven to 12 years.

In dozens of text messages, Carter had urged Roy to follow through on his talk of taking his own life. "The time is right and you are ready ... just do it babe," Carter wrote in a text the day he killed himself.

The sensational trial was closely watched on social media, in part because of the insistent tone of Carter's text messages.

"You can't think about it. You just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it. Like I don't get why you aren't," Carter wrote in one text.

Cataldo argued that Roy was determined to kill himself and nothing Carter did could change that. He said Carter initially tried to talk Roy out of it and urged him to get professional help, but eventually went along with his plan. Cataldo also argued that Carter's words amounted to free speech protected by the First Amendment.

In convicting Carter, the judge focused his ruling on Carter telling Roy to "get back in" after he climbed out of his truck as it was filling with carbon monoxide and told her he was afraid.

The judge said those words constituted "wanton and reckless conduct" under the manslaughter statute.

Roy's family told the court Thursday that they were devastated by his death.

Conrad Roy Jr. said it inflicted the "worst emotional pain" he has ever experienced.

"I am heartbroken," the father said.

A teenage sister, Camden Roy, recalled her 13 years with her older brother and said she's "haunted" by the realization that she'll never see him wed or be an aunt to his children.

Carter and Roy met in Florida in 2012 while both were on vacation with their families. After that, they only met in person a handful of times. Their relationship consisted mainly of texting.

This story has been corrected to show that prosecutors asked for a seven- to 12-year sentence, not a 20-year sentence, and that Roy's sister Camden talked about the 13 years she spent with him, not that she is 13 years old. This story has also been updated to reflect that the judge granted a defense motion that would keep Carter out of jail until her appeals in Massachusetts courts are exhausted, and to reflect the judge's mentions of Carter's juvenile and mental health status.

WGBH News reporter Mark Herz contributed to this story. 

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