James Q. Stevens, described by his attorney as a "confused young man who didn't know how to handle rejection" by his teen-aged girlfriend, was sentenced to four years and six months in prison yesterday in connection with the armed takeover of Lake Braddock High School in Fairfax County last November.
"No one person is worth serving time for," Stevens, 18, tearfully told reporters during a brief interview in the county jail minutes after the sentencing.
When he stormed the high school armed with a high-powered rifle and took 10 people hostage, Stevens had demanded to see Rebecca Golas, a 17-year-old Lake Braddock student with whom he had broken up the night before. "It's not her fault I'm here, I put myself here," Stevens said yesterday.
In addition to the prison term, Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Richard J. Jamborsky yesterday also ordered Stevens, whose family lives in Burke, to complete three years of community service working with mentally retarded children after he is released from jail. He also ordered Stevens to pay the school $403 for damages incurred during the siege and to continue psychiatric treatment.
Stevens, who has been in prison since the takeover six months ago, will be eligible for parole in about three to four months.
Six of the hostage victims were among the audience of almost 100 people who packed the large courtroom. Jamborsky said he was "very touched" that each of the victims who wrote letters to him about the sentencing "want Mr. Stevens to receive help." None of the victims was injured during the takeover.
Jamborsky said he will ask the State Department of Corrections to order Stevens to a medium-security prison in Fairfax County rather than one of the state's major prisons.
"Unfortunately, he has observed and been exposed to sexual assault, violence and power struggles" since his incarceration last November, Jamborsky said.
"There's no way Mr. Stevens will receive the counseling he needs within the Virginia penal system," the judge said.
Defense attorney Guy O. Farley said Stevens had not been the victim of sexual assault or violence, but had witnessed incidents at the state mental institute where he was undergoing tests and during his six-month stay in the county jail.
Stevens pleaded guilty in February to three counts of abduction and one firearms charge after prosecutors agreed to drop seven additional abduction charges and a second firearms count.
He could have received a maximum 10-year prison term on each abduction charge and under state law he was required to receive a two-year prison term on the firearms charge.
Jamborsky sentenced Stevens to a total of 20 years in prison and suspended all but four years and six months of the term.
During the sentencing hearing, deputy Commonwealth's Attorney V. Britt Richardson Jr. asked the judge for a lengthy prison term. He hammered at the effect the 21-hour seige had on the 10 people Stevens held hostage and on the two other school officials who were involved in the takeover.
Richardson told Jamborsky that June Harrison, 57, the school finance officer who was taken as the first hostage, "has not been able to return to work at the school and is under psychiatric care."
Arline Didier, 37, a reading teacher who, unknown to Stevens, hid under a copying machine during the entire episode "has had back problems and is attending physical therapy. Doctors have not been able to locate a physical cause," Richardson said, quoting from court papers.
Other school officials taken hostage said in court papers that they have suffered physical and mental problems, developed a fear of loud noises and are more suspicious of people.
Stevens was described by county jail officials as a model prisoner who while in jail has earned a high school diploma, worked for the jail chaplain and edited the jail newsletter.
"He's just a nice clean-cut American boy, in my opinion," testified Audrey Daugherty, who tutored Stevens in the jail.
Stevens told reporters yesterday, "I think it was very, very fair. I was prepared for worse . . . . I want to prove to society and the judge the sentence he made is justified and prove to him that I'm not a criminal."