Aaron Markus Richardson missed killing a federal judge by 1.6 inches.
For that attempted assassination, Richardson, 27, will spend the rest of his life in a federal prison.
U.S. District Judge Scott Coogler sentenced Richardson on Friday to 343 years in prison for the attempted murder of U.S. District Judge Timothy Corrigan.
Richardson, 27, was convicted earlier this year of firing a shot into Corrigan’s home that barely missed the judge while he was sitting in chair watching television.
Prosecutors and police said the shooting was an assassination attempt that attacked the United States system of government.
“It was a heinous attack on our justice system,” said Jacksonville FBI Special Agent in Charge Michelle Klimt.
Corrigan was the judge in a criminal case involving Richardson where he could have gone to prison for two years for violating his probation. Not wanting to be locked up, Richardson cooked up a complicated scheme to kill the judge and forge his signature on made up court documents that ordered his criminal charges dismissed.
Before Richardson was sentenced Corrigan and his wife, Nancy, addressed the court.
“Not only did Mr. Richardson intend to kill my husband, he was willing to do it in front of me,” Nancy Corrigan said. “Thankfully, the bullet missed Tim’s head by 1.6 inches and he is here today. But, no one in our family will ever be the same.”
Corrigan observed that Richardson didn’t seem to hate him.
“My death was just a means to his ends,” Corrigan said. “That’s what makes him so dangerous.”
For no purpose other than to get himself out of his own legal difficulties, Richardson meticulously plotted to kill him, and then started planning a second attempt on his life before being arrested, Corrigan said.
“A person capable of such behavior is an ongoing danger not just to my family and me, but to anyone with whom he comes into contact and from whom he thinks he can gain any advantage,” Corrigan said.
The case received the attention it has because law enforcement correctly saw this as an assault on the office he holds, Corrigan said.
Richardson was convicted in March of 24 criminal counts.
In court filings Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mac Heavener and Mark Devereaux said Richardson deserves a life sentence and that his motive “moves the crime from the realm of attempted murder into assassination.”
The attack occurred June 23, 2013, after Corrigan and his wife arrived at their Jacksonville home from a wedding. Richardson was hiding in a line of bushes on the side of the home and fired a single shot from a high-powered rifle that blew several holes in the home and barely missed the judge sitting in a sun room watching television. Corrigan suffered minor injuries when hit by exploding glass.
Police later arrested Richardson and recovered the rifle. They also found he’d searched for Corrigan’s address on his phone, purchased a ticket to a movie to give himself an alibi, and stolen the gun from a store so that the weapon couldn’t be traced back to him.
Richardson faced being returned to prison by Corrigan for a 2008 Orange Park firebombing. But under the law Corrigan could only put him in prison for two years, Heavener said.
Corrigan previously had sentenced him to three years of time served and three years of supervised release after he pleaded guilty to attempting to make an incendiary device.
He wrote a letter to Corrigan months later complaining that the probation was preventing him from graduating from Bethune-Cookman College. Richardson asked Corrigan to end his probation early, but the judge did not.
Richardson violated conditions of that release in January 2013 after being charged with stealing computers from a Bethune-Cookman College campus in Daytona.
Corrigan said before the shooting he’d only met Richardson once, the day he sentenced him. A U.S. magistrate had handled the case before, but magistrates are not allowed to sentence defendants, so Corrigan was on the bench for the sentencing.
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