By Kevin Deutsch
Michael Quiles, the man accused in the 2017 shooting that left 5-year-old Jaheem Hunter with permanent brain damage, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday—five years less than the maximum he faced behind bars.
Quiles, 29, was acquitted of attempted murder at his trial last month, but convicted on the lesser charge of weapon possession—a verdict that shocked Jaheem’s still-reeling family.
With time served, he could serve as little as six and a half years in prison, authorities said.
He had faced up to 15 years on the gun possession charge, according to the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, which issued a statement Wednesday signaling their displeasure with the lighter sentence issued by Bronx Supreme Court Justice Martin Marcus.
“Any defendant on parole, carrying a gun in broad daylight should receive the maximum sentence under the law, which is 15 years,” District Attorney Darcel Clark said. “The young victim miraculously survived a gunshot to the head but continues to struggle with the injuries. An innocent child’s life has been utterly changed.”
Aja Holmes, Jaheem‘s sister-turned-legal-guardian, was angered by the sentence.
“In the Bronx, you only get a slap on the wrist for nearly killing a 5-year-old black child,” she said in a statement to Bronx Justice News.
Quiles was carrying a loaded gun while arguing with two men armed with knives in the 1100 block of Washington Avenue in Morissania on June 5, 2017. On parole at the time, he fired multiple shots during the argument, one of which entered Jaheem’s head, prosecutors said.
Jaheem, now 6, came within inches of death, officials said. He’d been standing outside his father Charles Hunter’s Bronx building, waiting for Holmes to ferry him home to his birthday party, when the bullet struck.
Hunter, holding pieces of his son’s skull and brain matter in his hands, cradled the boy’s head while Holmes raced toward St. Barnabas Hospital, honking her horn all the way.
Jaheem stopped breathing in the car, and doctors surveying his injuries gave him little chance of survival.
Yet a few hours later, as Jaheem lay in a medically inducted coma, breathing with a ventilator, he began to move, his family said. As his recovery progressed New York City lovingly embraced the boy, whose story garnered widespread media attention. He was honored by the New York Knicks, and lauded by police and government officials as a hero.
Jaheem continues to recover from his injuries. After enduring four major surgeries, and paralysis to his right side, he now walks with a drag in his right foot. He also has weakness in his right hand, suffers from painful seizures, and struggles with his speech and memory.
He will always need special education, Holmes has said.