The North County man convicted of attempted voluntary manslaughter in the shooting of a woman he impregnated was sentenced to 12 years and 6 months in state prison Thursday.
Before about 100 people in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, Judge John Trice said the heinous nature of Steven Smith’s crime outweighed other considerations for leniency.
Factors he considered included the slaps, pushing and belittling of Smith by the victim Gina Stanko. Smith’s good standing in his community was also considered.
Smith, 27, was acquitted of two attempted murder charges (one for Stanko and one for the fetus) and burglary. He was convicted of the lesser charge by a jury who heard evidence that he shot her three times in the hand, chin and skull Nov. 6, 2009 — six days before she gave birth to their child.
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He faced a maximum sentence of 18 years in prison, which prosecutor Andy Cadena argued for, and a minimum sentence of probation, which defense attorney Ilan Funke-Bilu contended was appropriate.
Funke-Bilu argued that his client suffered from battered man syndrome and brought the gun to Stanko’s home in Paso Robles that night to level the psychological playing field because he felt threatened.
“Obviously, Ms. Stanko acted inappropriately, but she didn’t deserve what happened to her,” Trice said during his sentencing. “Mr. Smith should have asked for a restraining order.”
The sentencing took 21⁄2 hours. Trice heard statements from the lawyers as well as Stanko and Smith before stating his ruling.
Stanko, 35, was accompanied by several family members and her 15-month-old son, Leevi, whose father is Smith. Numerous friends and family of Smith also attended the hearing.
Their little boy played with a toy chain in the courtroom with Stanko and her family for part of the proceedings.
Stanko said the shooting has affected her emotionally and physically, leading to numerous surgeries and the disfiguration of her face.
Stanko also said the trial made her look like “a monster” and that Smith lied in court in his testimony about her kidnapping and raping him.
“He’s a sociopath with no remorse for me or others,” Stanko said. “The only time he was sorry was the day of the verdict, and he was only sorry for himself.”
Stanko — who broke down in tears at times during her statement — also said that it has caused her great pain to think about raising her son, who will know that “his father tried to kill him,” and that she and he both will need therapy to cope.
After her statement, Smith said he was “very sorry for hurting Gina Stanko” and that he never meant for that to happen.
“I have never been in a situation like this, and I never will be again,” Smith said. “I’ve learned a lot about the law and about myself, and how I need to talk about my problems and emotions and not bottle up.”
Smith pleaded with the judge for probation, saying it scares him to think of prison. Trice said he received about 200 letters from supporters of Smith and Stanko, which is unprecedented for him in his 30-year career as a lawyer and judge.
Trice said legislation requiring a prison sentence for the use of a gun during the commission of a crime — except in certain unusual circumstances — helped lead him to his decision.
Funke-Bilu said outside court he was saddened by the severity of the sentence, but respects the judge’s decision and the jury’s verdict.
“My client is extremely distraught,” Funke-Bilu said. “He also is remorseful and feels bad about what happened to Gina Stanko and for letting down the people close to him who had faith in him.”