Residents of Austin, Texas, and crime victims’ families are speaking out after District Attorney Jose Garza signed off on a plea deal for a woman for her part in a murder-for-hire plot that targeted her in-laws.
Jaclyn Alexa Edison was sentenced last week in Travis County, Texas, to 10 years probation after pleading guilty to conspiracy to attempt to commit capital murder by hiring two hit men who ultimately killed her then-husband’s father. The boyfriend’s mother survived.
Edison’s husband, Nicolas Shaughnessy, and the two hit men accepted plea deals of 35 years in prison. The victims’ families said that deal was too lenient, but Austin Police Retired Officers Association President Dennis Farris told Fox News Digital that Edison should have faced the same punishment as the others.
‘She should have gotten the same thing they got,’ Farris said. ‘They literally are just as guilty, she’s just as guilty as the person who pulled the trigger.’
Edison, who was 19 years old at the time of the crime, was offered ‘deferred adjudication,’ which means she accepted responsibility for the crime but the conviction was not placed on her record. The lawyer for the surviving victim said he has never seen a similar outcome.
‘In the close to half a century that I’ve worked with criminal law as a prosecutor and a defense attorney … I have never seen anything like this,’ attorney Steve Brittain told KXAN-TV. ‘I can’t put it together in my mind, and I just don’t understand it.’
Edison and her now ex-husband were accused of hiring Arieon Smith and Johnny Leon in 2018 to kill Shaughnessy’s adopted parents who owned Gallerie Jewelers in Austin in a scheme they hoped would net them their $2 million life insurance policy.
Ted Shaughnessy was found dead of multiple gunshot wounds in a hallway of his home after his wife, Corey Shaughnessy, returned fire at the hit men until she ran out of ammunition and hid in a closet to call 911, authorities said.
‘You can withdraw money from the bank to pay to have your in-laws killed, and this district attorney is going to let you basically walk away,’ Farris said. ‘I mean this is just insane.’
While part of Edison’s probation says she must check in to the Travis County Jail for two days each year on the anniversary of the murder as part of her probation, Farris told Fox News Digital that’s a slap on the wrist and that she will probably end up spending less than two days in jail based on the way the jails credit time served based on the time of day you clock in.
Garza, who was backed by a PAC linked to billionaire George Soros, has been criticized for years for what the families of crime victims say is a soft-on-crime approach that stems from adherence to progressive politics and ‘reimagining’ the justice system.
One of those family members is Nicholas Kantor, whose brother, Doug, was an innocent bystander when he was shot and killed in 2021 when two rival gangs of teenagers opened fire on each other in downtown Austin in one of the worst mass shootings in the city’s history. Two years later, Nicholas Kantor says Garza’s office has yet to deliver justice for his family and has even impeded progress toward that goal.
Kantor told Fox News Digital in response to news of Edison’s probation sentence that people need to ask themselves how they would feel if Edison had killed their mother or their father.
‘Would you feel contentment that the DA provided you with justice and peace of mind to settle your heart?’ Kantor said.
‘This is about the future of the justice system, if we continue to stand idle through deals and decisions like this without any protests and outrage, that this will become the new normal,’ Kantor added. ‘And while today it may be somebody else’s broken heart, tomorrow it could very well be yours.’
Garza ran on a platform of prosecuting police officers and has already gone after several of them, including the indictment of over 20 Austin police officers for their roles in subduing a Black Lives Matter riot in the wake of George Floyd’s death. He also worked to convict Army Sgt. Daniel Perry to 25 years in prison for shooting an armed Black Lives Matter protester who approached his car with a raised AK-47 style weapon.
‘This is a sweetheart deal,’ Farris said. ‘Do you think he would offer or make a deal with the police officers he’s charged? Things are getting worse in Travis County because we are refusing to put people in jail for the worst crimes they commit.’
Garza’s office did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital.
Associated Press contributed to this report.