Douglas Graham was sentenced Wednesday to five years probation. / The (Westchester County, N.Y.) Journal News
CARMEL, N.Y. -- A New York man who admitted to illegally possessing the handgun his teenage son used to kill himself last year was sentenced Wednesday to five years probation after several of the boy's friends and their parents asked the judge for leniency.
Michael Graham was 13 when he shot himself Jan. 14, 2013, in a bedroom inside his father's home in Southeast with a gun hidden in the attic.
Three months later, state police charged Douglas Graham, 55, with three counts of criminal possession of a weapon and one count of evidence tampering, felonies, after investigators found three unregistered pistols in the home and said he hid two of them after the shooting.
"Have we all not suffered enough?" wrote one of Michael's friends in a letter that Judge James Rooney read at Wednesday's sentencing. "Taking (his father) away from us will not bring Mike back." Another friend called Douglas Graham "a father figure to the whole Brewster community."
Adding to the tragedy, Michael's mother, Sheila Kearney Graham, 52, was found dead in her California home in October. Family members say she took her own life nine months to the day after Michael did because she was so devastated by the death of her only child. The Grahams were divorced.
Douglas Graham's attorney, James Borkowski, reached an agreement with prosecutors for him to plead guilty to a single felony count of weapon possession in exchange for probation. But Rooney said he first wanted to know where the guns came from and where they were in the home. Sentencing was further postponed when the probation officer assigned to the case took her own life in late October.
Rooney said Wednesday there was no evidence Douglas Graham hid any of the guns after the shooting and noted the prosecutor agreed to drop the charge. Rooney said the other two guns were secured in the garage.
Douglas Graham bought two of the guns at a gun show 10 to 12 years ago, Rooney said, reading from a pre-sentencing report. He never registered them because he got them illegally. The third gun was left behind by a tenant of a building Graham owns in Poughkeepsie.
Rooney, in agreeing to the plea deal, noted that the report indicated Sheila Graham, while upset at her ex-husband for leaving guns in the home, did not feel he should be further punished.
One friend of Michael Graham's wrote that if Douglas Graham were put in jail "it would be like living through those bad memories over again. I talk to him on a regular basis and he helps me whenever help is needed."
A parent who also wrote said, "We need him here front and center to continue the healing process."
Douglas Graham appeared to get choked up as Rooney read the letters.
Michael Graham lived with his mother at her Carmel condominium. When she had back surgery in mid-January 2013, Michael went to stay at his father's home the week he died. State police said Douglas Graham had gone to the store about 5 p.m. Jan. 14, 2013, and returned about 45 minutes to find his son dead.
Sheila Graham's sister, Maureen Kearney Hutchins, said her sister blamed Douglas Graham for their son's death. Hutchins said by email Wednesday that she was upset with the sentence.
"I can't believe it," she wrote. "I guess if you want to leave guns around where kids can get them, move to Putnam County."
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Read the original story: Dad gets probation for illegal gun used in son's suicide