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Local pleads guilty in shooting, receives probation
Attorneys: criminal implications for key witness led to new plea deal, reduced charges
Christopher John Puckett

A local man accused of shooting his former roommate in 2016 has accepted a plea deal, plead guilty to a charge of voluntary manslaughter and will be released from custody sometime Tuesday afternoon.

Until Tuesday morning, Christopher John Puckett, 33, of Cumming was facing a jury trial charged with malice murder, felony murder and aggravated assault and battery after he was arrested in October 2016 when he shot a 52-year-old male during an argument. Puckett was potentially facing a life sentence for each of his murder charges.

But according to Forsyth County Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Scalia, the case was thrown into uncertainty after a key states witness was implicated in a new criminal investigation.

"With the uncertainty of any potential new charges, the state thinks that this meets the ends of justice," Scalia said after the proceedings Tuesday.

During the proceedings, Scalia explained to Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley and the court that four of Puckett's charges — two counts of felony murder and counts of aggravated assault and battery – had been dismissed, and the change of malice murder had been reduced to one count of voluntary manslaughter.

After deliberating on the issue and hearing Scalia's arguments, Bagley accepted the plea deal saying, "I can live with that... After giving it quite a bit of thought, I believe that it can be justified."

Scalia said that the plea deal sentenced Puckett to two years in jail and 18 years on probation, but that his jail sentence was eliminated due to the amount of time he has spent in jail since his arrest.

"The state is just happy that for the next 18 years he will not be able to possess a firearm, and we think that's a good thing too," she said. "I was more than willing to go forward … but taking all things in consideration of all involved, I think this met the ends of justice."

Puckett was also granted first offender status by Bagley. First offender status allows someone who is accused of a felony and has no prior felony convictions to make a guilty plea and have the charge “sealed from [their] official criminal history” at the completion of their sentence and probation, according to information from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

After the proceedings, Puckett's attorney David Savoy told the FCN that they were both surprised and pleased that justice was served and that their client would be going home.

"He should process out in the next couple of hours and then go home to his family,” Savoy said. “Which is what we have been trying to accomplish for the past two years.”