Accused shooter in Martha Childress case pleads guilty to fed charge

Martha Childress
Martha Childress
Michael Juan Smith
Michael Juan Smith
The man accused of wounding an 18-year-old University of South Carolina student in Five Points late last year pleaded guilty to a federal weapons charge.

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Michael Juan Smith appeared at the Federal Courthouse in downtown Columbia at 9:30 a.m. to issue the plea.

Smith was charged with assault and battery and various weapons possession charges in the incident that paralyzed Martha Childress.

In Wednesday's hearing, 21-year-old Michael Juan Smith admitted having a .40 caliber Glock in his possession and that the gun traveled across state lines before it was stolen in Richland County.

Smith, who has previous felony convictions, did not admit firing the weapon or shooting Childress. But he now stands to do federal time simply for carrying the gun.

"Felons who continue to arm themselves with firearms after receiving time and time again sentences in state court face a chance of being taken federally," said Assistant US Attorney Stacey Haynes.

On that federal weapons charge, Smith could face up to a maximum of 10 years in prison.

The gunshot issue could and likely will come up at Smith's sentencing, probably around June.

Police say Smith opened fire on two men he was arguing with on Harden Street on an early October morning in the bar and entertainment district.

However, the bullets missed their intended targets and instead struck Childress in the midsection, severing her spinal cord and forcing her to spend the rest of her days in a wheelchair.

Smith's defense attorney, James Rogers, said his client was "remorseful."

"I mean he's sorry he's gotten into this situation," said Rogers.

Smith still faces state charges including assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature and multiple weapons charges.

Childress has since been in recovery and hope to re-enroll at USC.

"Martha's taking a couple of correspondence courses at USC," said her uncle, Jim Carpenter. "And USC has been very good as far as making some alterations to enable her to do that. She's in the process of having a car modified so that there are hand controls. That's going to be a process that she will have to learn to drive with the hand controls, but that's in processs. She's planning to back to school in the fall."

As for Smith, bond was denied in his case back in October. He has since been in the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.

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