Preacher gets probation for DeWitt County shooting; victim outraged

Mark Stewart, a Corpus Christi minister, was sentenced to probation after pleading guilty to aggravated assault for shooting lay pastor John Jackson in Cuero in May 2010.

On Tuesday, District Judge Pat Kelly sentenced Stewart to 10 years deferred adjudication probation, a $5,000 fine, court costs, restitution for medical bills and 90 days in the county jail.

A tampering with evidence charge against Stewart was dismissed.

Prosecutors from the DeWitt County District Attorney's Office had asked that Stewart be sentenced to seven years in prison.

The defendant chose to plead guilty. There was no plea bargain and there was no jury, said DeWitt County District Attorney Michael Sheppard.

"The judge heard a lot of evidence and gave it serious consideration. We respect the judgment of the court," said Sheppard.

Stewart could have received from two to 20 years in state prison for the second degree felony.

"It wasn't the least punishment he could have received," said Sheppard. "His probation period could have been longer. If he violates his probation during those 10 years, he is subject to being sent to jail."

Kelly heard the evidence during lengthy hearing on April 13 that included 10 character witnesses for Stewart, said his defense attorney Scott Ellison, of Corpus Christi.

"There were extenuating circumstances," Ellison said. "Mr. Jackson assaulted Mr. Stewart prior to being shot. It wasn't self-defense under these circumstances, but there was a lot of mitigation."

Sheppard acknowledged that evidence indicated Jackson punched Stewart before the preacher shot him.

Ellison said his client has no previous criminal record and is partially crippled.

"It was a contract dispute," Ellison said, claiming that Jackson had taken more than $70,000 from Stewart for construction work that was never done.

Stewart had gone to Jackson's Staerker Street home to discuss the situation when the violence erupted.

"The judge gave careful and appropriate consideration to the evidence," Ellison said. "Justice dictated probation."

Jackson was not pleased with the sentence.

"He lied on the witness stand and he's a preacher," said Jackson. "I can't believe he got off so easy for trying to kill me. I've still got the bullet in me.

"That's all you get for shooting a man in the back?" Jackson asked.

"It's a slap in the face to the people of DeWitt County. To me in this county, if it's black-on-black crime you don't do no time."

Alger Kendall and Terry Breen represented the prosecution in the case.