A Massachusetts woman who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself was sentenced Thursday to 2 1/2-years in prison, but in a shock to the victim’s family, the judge ruled to let her free pending an appeal of the case.
Michelle Carter, 20, was sentenced to 2 1/2-years behind bars, but only has to serve 15 months of that. Carter was also sentenced to five years of probation.
The judge granted a defense motion that would keep Carter out of jail until her appeals in Massachusetts courts are exhausted.
Carter was convicted in June of involuntary manslaughter and faced up to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors requested Carter be sentenced to at least seven years in state prison, but no more than 12 years. Carter's attorney recommended five years of supervised probation with mental health counseling.
As family members of Conrad Roy III, Carter's deceased boyfriend, left the courtroom, there were tears and a vocal question: "How can she still be out?" one family member asked. Another family member said, "This ain't over," along with some profane words.
During the sentencing, the prosecutor said Carter showed no remorse and should be punished for her actions.
"All she had to do was say [to Roy] 'get out of the truck,'" the prosecutor said.
But Carter's attorney insisted her client will be better off on probation with mental health treatment.
Roy's father, Conrad Roy Jr., also said in his impact statement that Carter "exploited" his son's weakness and used him as a "pawn."
"I am heartbroken. Our family is heartbroken," Roy said. "Where is her humanity...in what world is this acceptable?"
Carter was 17 in 2014 when she persuaded Roy, 18, to kill himself with a series of texts and phone calls, prosecutors said. Roy died when his pickup truck filled with carbon monoxide in a store parking lot in Fairhaven, Mass.
"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.
Carter was tried as a youthful offender, so the judge could have committed her to a Department of Youth Services facility until she turns 21 on Aug. 11. He could also have combined a DYS commitment with an adult sentence, or given her an adult sentence of anything from probation to the maximum 20-year term.
Roy’s aunt, Kim Bozzi, said in a statement Carter should be given the maximum amount of prison time, the Boston Herald reported.
“Twenty years may seem extreme but it is still twenty more than Conrad will ever have,” Bozzi said in her statement.
In a letter to the judge, David Carter, Michelle’s father, said his daughter made a “tragic mistake.” He asked for probation and continued counseling.
Joseph Cataldo, Carter’s lawyer, argued that Roy was determined to kill himself and nothing Carter did would have changed his decision. He also argued that Carter’s words were protected as free speech by the First Amendment.
On June 16, a judge found Carter guilty for telling Roy to “get back in” after he climbed out of his truck as it was filling with carbon monoxide.
Fox News' Bryan Llenas and The Associated Press contributed to this report.