Plea bargain reached in Wright assault case

By By Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
May 23, 2001
A plea agreement was reached Tuesday in the Michael Allen Wright aggravated assault case after a day and a half of trial proceedings in Lauderdale County Circuit Court.
Wright, 19, of 3781 Spring St., was charged in the February 2000 shooting of 39-year-old Robert N. Verdin of Toomsuba. Verdin was shot in the neck with a .22 caliber pistol.
The trial opened Monday with jury selection and proceeded through the day with opening arguments and testimony. A plea arrangement was reached early in the second day of trial, said District Attorney Bilbo Mitchell.
Judge Robert Bailey accepted the plea and has set a sentencing date for July 24. The negotiated plea recommends a 10-year prison sentence with eight years suspended and five years supervised probation. The plea also mandates Wright pay more than $10,000 in restitution.
Wright was taken into custody less than eight hours after authorities said he entered Verdin's Highway 11/80 East home and shot him in the neck, causing Verdin to be placed on a respirator in a local hospital.
Wright was charged in connection with the shooting after Verdin's neighbors gave authorities his description. After a brief search, Wright was found in the parking lot of Howard's Grocery Store on Highway 11/80 East after sheriff's deputies received a disturbance call there.
Wright had filed a petition to enter a plea of guilty in December, stating he shot Verdin because the two men had a "difference of opinion." He withdrew the plea a month later, stating he could not say under oath he committed the crime of aggravated assault and that he had a viable defense.
Until his sentencing, Wright will remain free on $20,000 bond, providing he has no contact with Verdin or Verdin's family.
Marianne Todd is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3236, or e-mail her at mtodd@themeridianstar.com.

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