A woman who gave her ex-boyfriend the guns he used in February’s mass shooting at a Hesston lawn equipment factory was sentenced Monday to a year on supervised release in a case the judge acknowledged leaves the community with a great sense of unfulfilled justice.
U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren also credited Sarah Hopkins for the few days she already has served in jail. Hopkins pleaded guilty to not alerting authorities that a convicted felon unlawfully possessed firearms.
“That sentence is not satisfactory to those who have losses in this case, but ultimately … the one who committed it is beyond the jurisdiction of this court,” Melgren said.
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Hopkins admitted in her plea deal that on Feb. 5, she redeemed an AK-47 rifle and a 40-caliber Glock handgun from a pawn shop in Newton and gave them to Cedric Ford. She had purchased the weapons from an out-of-state dealer.
Ford used the weapons in a Feb. 25 shooting at the Excel Industries plant in Hesston that killed three people and wounded 14. Ford was killed by Hesston’s police chief.
Melgren noted that even the government said in its plea agreement there is no evidence Hopkins knew Ford planned to harm anyone, nor was there any evidence Ford formulated a plan to shoot people before that day.
No one can reasonably say Hopkins was implicated in that crime, and she is not charged as being an accessory to that crime, the judge noted.
Melgren acknowledged there is “a great sense in the community that there is some unfulfilled justice for what happened.”
Prosecutors agreed in the plea deal not to oppose a probationary sentence. Hopkins had faced a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Donna Dominique, who lost her fiancee in the shooting rampage, told the court she had compassion for Hopkins’ situation but said a “whole lot of people” are affected by this every day.
“There has to be a consequence, a cause-and-effect here,” Dominique said. “Probation, no. It is not a speeding ticket.”
Hopkins gave no courtroom statement but sobbed after hearing Dominique speak.
Kathryn Spain, a former girlfriend of Ford’s who sought the protection-from-abuse order that had been served just hours before the shooting rampage, urged the judge not to blame Hopkins for what happened. She recounted the beating she suffered from Ford that led to her seeking court protection.
“He was a very scary man,” Spain said. “Very manipulating, very abusive.
“Nobody can judge anybody unless they are in that situation.”
The judge also told the packed courtroom that it is clear Hopkins was abused and controlled by Ford.
Psychologist Marilyn Hutchinson testified at the hearing that Hopkins, who has two children with Ford, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the abusive relationship and was a battered woman who lived in fear of him for herself and her children.