Todd Francis, 56, did not make a statement in court Wednesday, but a judge shared a few pointed words before sentencing him to four years in prison.
“Loaded weapons and children are not a formula to be trifled with,” said San Diego Superior Court Judge Timothy Walsh, who rejected Francis’ claims that the gun was not loaded when he stored it in the converted garage.
Eric Klyaz was fatally shot June 4 while playing with Francis’ then-9-year-old daughter at the family’s Miramar Ranch home. No adults were home at the time.
Defense lawyer Danna Cotman reiterated Wednesday that Francis’ memory of how the gun was stored is different from the prosecution’s version of events. She said he is deeply remorseful and has taken responsibility in this case by pleading guilty to two counts of felony child endangerment.
“This is not something that will happen again,” Cotman told the judge, adding that even if Francis could legally own a gun (his felony conviction prohibits that) he would not.
She asked the judge to place her client on probation, arguing that he had no previous criminal record and he needed to remain out of custody to provide for his family. Cotman said Francis also wanted to share his story with other gun owners, warning them of the dangers of keeping weapons anywhere children can find them.
Deputy District Attorney Matthew Dix argued that the crime merited more than probation.
“He is being punished the least for his gross negligence,” Dix said of Francis.
Eric’s father, who was ill at the time of the shooting, has since died, the prosecutor said. The mother, Irina Klyaz, declined to make a statement during the sentencing. But her tears spoke volumes.
Francis was handcuffed and taken into custody at the end of the hearing.