Man to Serve 10 Years for Bringing Shotgun to Athens High School

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) - A Limestone County man has been sentenced for bringing a loaded gun onto school grounds back in May 2010.

Limestone County Judge James Woodruff sentenced Thomas Brian Smoak to 10 years for two counts of making terrorist threats and 10 years for having a firearm with intent to harm. The sentences will run concurrently, meaning Smoak will serve 10 years total.  Smoak will serve the time in a state penitentiary.

"We are very pleased with this," said Brian Jones, Limestone County District Attorney. "Mr. Smoak is going to prison and he will no longer be on the streets of Limestone County."

Smoak hung his head and wept as four family members testified he was a loving father and a wonderful nurse. One of the pleas for leniency came from a young woman who said she came from a broken home and that the Smoak family had taken her in as their own. She testified Smoak had been more like a father to her than anyone in her life and that she wanted him to be able to come home to be a part of her 3-year-old son's life.

Defense attorney John Totten told the court Smoak had only two traffic violations in his nearly 55 years, but District Attorney Jones called Smoak a "ticking time bomb" who had made threats before.

After his children spoke Thomas Smoak addressed the court briefly. He told Judge Woodruff, "Hindsight is 20/20. If I could take all this back I would. I never intended to harm anyone."

Before Smoak could take his seat Brian Jones declared he had a few questions. He asked Smoak, "Were you or were you not terminated from Athens-Limestone Hospital for telling a fellow employee, 'If I had a gun I would start blowing people away...if you hear a click, click, click - you'll know it's me.'?"

Smoak responded, "Yes, I was terminated but I don't remember that statement,"

Jones then asked if Smoak was in fact later terminated from Crestwood Medical Center in Huntsville after making threats to employees to which Smoak replied, 'no'.

Jones also asked if Smoak ever had a ringtone on his phone from the heavy metal band Drowning Pool's song Let The Bodies Hit The Floor. Jones quoted a portion of the lyrics:

Let the bodies hit the floor
Let the bodies hit the floor
Let the bodies hit the floor
Let the bodies hit the floor

Beaten, why for (why for)
Can't take much more
Here we go here we go here we go, now.

Smoak replied he had never had the song as a ringtone on his phone.

When asked by Jones if he was committed to a psychiatric facility, Smoak confirmed he had in fact been treated for depression but sought the counseling on his own volition.

Smoak was convicted in February.  Police say he took a loaded shotgun to Athens High School in May of 2010.  His wife called the school to warn them her husband was angry about their son's suspension.  She told someone at the school Smoak was on his way to confront the principal with a gun.

Authorities were there waiting for him, and arrested him before he ever made it inside the school.  Authorities found the loaded shotgun and extra shells in his pockets.

"We are very fortunate that Mrs. Smoak called the school and Athens Police Department worked very hard to respond very quickly to stop Mr. Smoak from entering the school building," said Jones.

The defense asked for a split sentence of 18 months or probation.  The state asked for two consecutive 10-year sentences - the maximum and minimum for class C felonies involving a firearm - but say they are pleased with what Judge Woodruff handed down.

"We are trying to send a message to the general population that this particular activity is not going to be tolerated," said Jones. "We are not going to tolerate guns coming in our schools, we are not going to tolerate people threatening our teachers and our principals and if you do that in Limestone County, we will send you to prison."

Jones says Smoak will be evaluated once he enters a penitentiary and those tests will determine his eligibility for parole.

Smoak has the automatic right to an appeal.

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