BEL AIR, Md. - A Harford County teenager was sentenced to 18 years in prison after reaching a plea deal over the killing of his father.
Robert Richardson III pleaded guilty to manslaughter and a weapons charge Wednesday in Harford County Circuit Court. He had been facing first-degree murder charges since 2012 when police say the then-16-year-old admitted to the crime.
Richardson was charged as an adult and has spent the last two years in the Harford County Detention Center awaiting trial. That trial was scheduled for early February.
Many members of Richard's family were not in the courtroom Wednesday afternoon, but the state did read two impact statements into the record including one from the teen's grandmother.
If his case would have gone to trial, Richardson's defense would have been self defense after suffering years of verbal and physical abuse by his father. The teen's defense would have called doctors and witnesses to build a battered child's defense detailing the years of abuse.
The plea deal brings an end to a case that has gotten a lot of attention. Many in Harford County rallied around the now 18-year-old Richardson, creating a popular Facebook page and sparking a now global campaign to free the young man.
Those supporters flooded the courtroom Wednesday afternoon to hear the plea deal which some thought was the best possible end to a tragic story.
"We're lucky that the prosecutor understood the effects of the abuse had on him. We're lucky that this plea was offered to him because a jury trial can be a crap shoot. But in a perfect world, Bob's father would still be alive and the family would have gotten the help that they needed," said supporter Elieen Siple.
**CORRECTION: ABC2 originally reported Richardson would be eligible for parole in 5 years. That is incorrect. Richardson's attorney says the teen may be eligible for parole in closer to 10 years because of the strict conditions of a weapons conviction.