NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A jury has decided Katie Quackenbush is guilty of reckless endangerment in a unanimous decision. The verdict is classified as a Class A misdemeanor.
Quackenbush started sobbing during the reading of the verdict. The sentencing will happen in the next 40 days.
Quackenbush was accused of shooting a man who was sleeping on the sidewalk in 2017 near Music Row. She pleaded not guilty to attempted murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
The defense called a final witness before resting its case on Wednesday. Closing arguments concluded and the judge read instructions to the jury.
In August 2017, Gerald Melton, who was experiencing homelessness, was trying to sleep on the sidewalk near 19th Avenue S. and Chet Atkins Place when he was reportedly disturbed by exhaust fumes and loud music from a Porsche SUV driven by Quackenbush.
Police said Melton asked her to move the vehicle, which spurred an argument between the two. Quackenbush is accused of shooting Melton twice before running away.
Her trial began on Monday with jury selection and opening statements. On Tuesday, the jury heard from both the man Quackenbush allegedly shot and a former friend of the defendant.
Quackenbush also took the stand in her own defense. She testified that she feared for her life and acted in self-defense when Melton confronted her. By taking the stand, she opened herself up to a withering cross-examination from the prosecution, who pressed her on past bad behavior and disturbing texts she sent to people who upset her.
Melton was hit in the torso region. His liver was perforated and he lost part of his colon. He developed a bleeding ulcer as a result of the shooting.
In their closing statements, the prosecution reminded the jury that whether or not Melton was actually hit with any bullets was not important in reaching a verdict. What mattered was Quackenbush's intent to hurt him.
Prosecution also argued that even in an act of self defense, the means of defense must be equivalent to the threat that is posed.
"You can't combat offensive words with a gun," one prosecuting attorney said.
In its closing arguments, the defense team claimed Melton was absent to avoid discussing his part in the trial.
Defense also stated that it was vitally important for the jury to weigh Quackenbush's claim that she closed her eyes when she fired her gun, because she therefore could not be accused of a premeditated or knowing attempt of any sort.
Defense also focused on its portrait of Melton as a territorial bigot to whom Quackenbush overreacted.
In its rebuttal, the prosecution pointed out a possible discrepancy in the defense's claims — that the attack was being described as both an intentional act of self-defense and an accidental act committed by a woman who closed her eyes and fired randomly.
"She did not shoot Gerald Milton because she had to; she shot Gerald Melton because she chose to," the prosecution claimed.
After about 3 hours of deliberation, the jury reached its verdict that Quackenbush was guilty of reckless endangerment, which is a Class A misdemeanor. She was not found guilty of reckless endangerment with a deadly weapon, which would have qualified as a Class E felony.
Sentencing for a Class A misdemeanor means she can not be imprisoned for more than eleven months and 29 days, nor may she be fined more than $2,500. Her exact sentence is yet to be determined.