ATLANTA - Two police officers pleaded guilty Thursday to federal and state charges, including manslaughter, in the shooting death of a 92-year-old woman during a botched drug raid last fall. A third officer still faces charges in the woman's death.
"I'm sorry," said 35-year-old Officer J.R. Smith, his voice barely audible. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter, violation of oath, criminal solicitation, making false statements, and perjury, which was based on untrue claims in a warrant.
Former Officer Gregg Junnier, 40, who retired from the Atlanta police force in January, pleaded guilty to manslaughter, violation of oath, criminal solicitation and making false statements.
In a hearing later in federal court, each man pleaded guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to violate a person's civil rights, resulting in death.
U.S. Attorney David Nahmias told The Associated Press the recommended federal sentence for Mr. Junnier will be 10 years and one month in prison. He said the recommended federal sentence for Officer Smith would be 12 years, seven months.
The state and federal sentences are expected to run concurrently for both men.
As part of the plea agreement, if both defendants provide substantial assistance to the federal government, prosecutors have agreed to recommend the judge impose a lower sentence.
U.S. District Judge Julie Carnes did not immediately set a date for sentencing but agreed to a $25,000 bond for Mr. Junnier pending sentencing.
The charges followed a Nov. 21 "no-knock" drug raid at Kathryn Johnston's home. An informant had described buying drugs from a dealer there, police said. When the officers burst in, Ms. Johnston fired at them, and they fired back, killing her.
Fulton County prosecutor Peter Johnson disclosed Thursday that the officers involved in Ms. Johnston's death fired 39 shots, striking her five or six times, including a fatal blow to the chest.
He said Ms. Johnston fired only once through her door and didn't hit any of the officers. That means the officers who were wounded likely were hit by their colleagues, he said.
Mr. Junnier and Officer Smith, who is on administrative leave, had been charged in an indictment unsealed earlier Thursday with felony murder, violation of oath by a public officer, criminal solicitation, burglary, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and making false statements.
The third officer, Arthur Tesler, also on administrative leave, was charged with violation of oath by a public officer, making false statements and false imprisonment under color of legal process. His attorney, William McKenney, said Officer Tesler expects to go to trial.
Mr. Junnier and Officer Smith could have faced up to life in prison had they been convicted of murder.