A judge has reduced the sentence of a man who pleaded guilty last month to murder and burglary charges in the 2007 fatal shooting of Christopher Dale Teseniar in Berkeley County.
Circuit Judge Kristi L. Harrington sentenced 27-year-old Michael Jason Maxwell in April to consecutive terms of 60 years for murder and 25 years for burglary after he pleaded guilty while his trial was under way.
Maxwell's attorneys, Leigh Hunter and Michele Forsythe, petitioned the court to reconsider and presented research showing other area defendants had received far less time in connection with similar violent crimes.
Harrington listened to arguments Thursday and then changed Maxwell's sentence so that his two prison terms would run concurrently, effectively shaving 25 years off the previous 85-year sentence.
According to Berkeley County sheriff's deputies, Maxwell kicked in the front door of Teseniar's Cypress Plantation Road mobile home at 4:40 a.m. Nov. 11, 2007, and shot the 20-year-old man while others were sleeping in the house.
Inmates at the Hill-Finklea Detention Center told deputies that Maxwell was bragging about the murder while he was in the jail, according to the solicitor's office.
Maxwell and Teseniar knew each other but weren't friends, according to investigators. Witnesses on the scene told detectives Maxwell thought Teseniar had stolen some of his property.
After changing his plea last month, Maxwell stated in court that he went to Teseniar's home with co-defendant Adam Todd Tarpley, 24, to retrieve some jewelry he believed had been stolen from his sister, Hunter said.
Maxwell insisted, however, that Tarpley fired the fatal shots, she said.
Tarpley and two other co-defendants in the case still are awaiting trial.
Hunter said she was pleased Harrington had reduced her client's sentence but still thought 60 years was "excessive," particularly since Maxwell had shown remorse for his actions.
Tasha Teseniar, the victim's younger sister, said she thought the first sentence was more appropriate. She said the judge must have had her reasons for changing the sentence but offered no explanation.
"Had the judge stuck with her initial decision, our family would be able to live in confidence that we would never have to worry about him stepping from behind prison walls during our lifetimes," she said.
Harrington was unavailable for comment Friday.
Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said her office had no comment on the judge's decision.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or firstname.lastname@example.org.