Rhinelander man sentenced to prison for 2017 shooting incident
Steven Fletcher accepted a plea deal in May
BY NAOMI KOWLES
For the Star Journal
Steven J. Fletcher was sentenced to three years in state prison Tuesday for an incident in which he was accused of breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s apartment and shooting at her son. Fletcher’s sentence includes an additional three years of supervision and nine months in jail, the second sentence for a misdemeanor charge of operating a firearm while intoxicated.
Fletcher was initially charged in March 2017 with attempted first degree homicide, a felony that carries a maximum 40-year imprisonment sentence. The charges were reduced to a class F felony of first degree reckless endangerment in May, a plea agreement to which Fletcher pled guilty.
On Tuesday, Judge Michael Bloom attributed the charge reduction to the letters and testimonies received from friends and family that testified to both the integrity of Fletcher’s character as well as head injuries he had sustained in the past. Fletcher was examined by Dr. Michael Galli, a clinical psychologist, and was deemed ineligible for a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
While Bloom recognized the evidence as substantial in supporting the claims of Fletcher’s honesty and kindness when unintoxicated, he repeatedly reminded the defendant of the facts of the case.
“[He] pointed a gun at another human being and pulled the trigger. That’s what happened,” Bloom stated. No medical or psychiatric conduct, he said, would explain Fletcher’s conduct “absent of voluntary intoxication,” which he identified as one of the most common causes of “primal behavior.”
“What is it that exists inside of him that caused or allowed this to happen?” Bloom asked, adding that it might not be “more than happenstance” that the charge was not homicide, carrying with it a guaranteed life sentence.
“It only happened because I was drinking,” Fletcher said, after making statements to apologize and take responsibility for the felony. “I’m not drinking now.”
Fletcher, who was released last year after 23 days initial confinement on a $30,000 bail, was charged with bail jumping earlier this year in which he also procured alcohol. Fletcher’s attorney, Brian F. Bennett, called it a hiccup in an otherwise law-abiding character since the incident last March.
When sentencing, Bloom said, he considers the character of the accused, the need to protect the public, and the gravity of the offense. While he recognized Fletcher’s overall law-abiding character as supported by letter and testimony, as well as the relative odds of a repeated offense, he deemed the gravity of the offense to call for a greater punishment than the minimal jail time and supervision that Fletcher’s attorney, Brian F. Bennett, recommended.
“Putting a good guy in a building with a lot of bad guys is not the solution,” Bennett said in his defense.
Bloom acknowledge in his sentencing that there is a “legitimate discussion” around the incarceration of non-violent offenders. “But by any rational definition,” he noted, “This constitutes violent conduct.”
Fletcher was accused of being intoxicated the night of March 11, 2017, when he entered an apartment on Cranes Road. He opened the door and saw the would-be victim, reportedly said “You’re dead,” and shot at his ex-girlfriend’s son. The shot missed and entered a coffee table inside the apartment, after which the son was able to wrestle the gun away from Fletcher and take it to a friend’s apartment.
A Ruger .22-caliber pistol, reportedly fired both while being loaded in the truck and later in the apartment, was recovered and taken as evidence. Fletcher, who says he takes responsibility for his actions, also indicated he has no memory of the incident.