NEW YORK (PIX11) — Despite being found not guilty after she fatally shot her ex-cop husband, Barbara Sheehan was sent off to prison on Friday. Before turning herself in to serve her five-year sentence, she spoke exclusively with PIX11 News about the prospect of being locked up for half a decade, and warned that her fate could happen to anyone.
“The city of New York is not in any safer hands because I’m in jail tonight,” Sheehan said, minutes before walking into the Queens Supreme Court building. She was surrounded by her family as she headed toward the complex on Queens Boulevard. Before entering, though, she spoke about the conviction that still has some legal experts puzzled.
“It makes absolutely no sense,” she said. “[I was] acquitted of the crime, but found guilty on what I used to commit the crime that I was acquitted of doing, which was not a crime. It was self defense.”
She was referring to her acquittal a year-and-a-half ago for the February 2008 fatal shooting of her husband, Raymond Sheehan. He was a retired NYPD sergeant, who, according to his wife and children, was increasingly physically violent with his wife over the course of their 24-year marriage, and had on numerous occasions threatened to kill her.
She testified that she was in fear for her life when she shot her husband with two of his guns, and a jury sided with her in October 2011. However, they convicted her for criminal possession of a weapon for using the second gun. She could have gotten a lesser sentence, but the judge, Barry Kron, said no.
“To give me five years for it, I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket,” said Sheehan. “But it’s okay, because I’m going to go [voluntarily].”
But she wiped away tears when asked how she felt personally about the judge’s ruling. “What do I feel?” she asked. “I really don’t know if I should say what I really feel,” she added, attempting to dodge controversy. “But apparently he didn’t like me too much, and I don’t know why.”
When pressed further to express her true feelings about the sentence Judge Kron had handed down, Sheehan responded, “I’m a Christian. I’m a Catholic, and I have to forgive. So I don’t really want to say.”
Sheehan entered the courtroom Friday morning with her family and attorney, but she never emerged. Instead, court officers led her off to jail, where she was granted protective custody by the judge.
Before the proceeding, she told PIX11 about positive things she hopes to do behind bars. “I’m working for a domestic violence organization, which actually gives me satisfaction to see these little children getting the help they need from the social workers, and that’s actually what I want to get my [master’s] degree in while I’m in jail.”
In the courtroom, as officers handcuffed Sheehan to take her away to begin her sentence, her family members shouted from the gallery sentiments that Sheehan’s many supporters had said during her murder trial — that she is a hero for taking the self-defensive action that she did, and for accepting its consequences. But in her PIX11 interview, Sheehan played down the admiration.
“I’m not a hero. I don’t consider myself a hero,” she said. “I consider myself [to be] someone that defended herself.”
And she added this warning: “I defended myself with a legal weapon in my own house, and I’m going to jail. It can happen to anyone. It can happen to anyone’s family member. So you’ve got to watch out.”
Sheehan said that her appeals attorney told her that with credit for good behavior and time served, she is likely to be out of prison within three-and-a-half years. That same lawyer is carrying her case to a higher court.
Sheehan’s lower level court attorney, Niall MacGiollabhui, told PIX11 News that he is confident that, on appeal, Sheehan’s conviction will either be overturned, or her sentence reduced.
In the meantime, however, Barbara Sheehan is headed to a women’s prison in Upstate New York. “It’s an emotional moment,” she said, “but I’m ready and prepared to go. I’m ready because… this is what God wants. I’m on some kind of path, some kind of journey, and whatever it is, whatever it is, I’m going to do it.”