By Susan Cooper Eastman
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Reuters) - A Florida woman who says she fired a warning shot at her abusive husband was released from a Jacksonville jail on Tuesday under a plea deal that capped her sentence to the three years she had already served.
Marissa Alexander, 34, was initially sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2012 but her conviction was later overturned. She faced another trial on charges that could have put her behind bars for 60 years before she agreed to a plea deal in November.
Her case helped to inspire a new state law permitting warning shots in some circumstances.
Leaving the courthouse, Alexander cried as she thanked her supporters, sharing plans to continue her education in order to work as a paralegal.
"My hope is for the people who were involved in this case to be able to move on with their lives," she said, reading from a prepared statement.
She declined to answer further questions.
At her sentencing hearing, Alexander's attorney noted that she had agreed to the deal to avoid putting all involved, including her three children, through a high-profile trial.
Alexander pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated assault for firing a shot in the direction of her husband, Rico Gray, during a 2010 argument while two of his children were also in the house.
She also agreed to serve two years of house arrest, wearing an ankle monitor. She will be allowed to work, attend classes and take her children to school and medical appointments.
Circuit Court Judge James Daniel denied a request by prosecutors to add two years of probation to her sentence at the conclusion of the house arrest.
Prosecutors called as a witness 15-year-old Pernell Gray, who said his life changed the day his stepmother fired the gun in his presence.
"I was not hurt physically, but I was hurt emotionally and mentally," he said.
Outside the Duval County courthouse, Alexander's supporters from around the nation unfurled pieces of a red quilt memorializing victims of rape and abuse.
"Self-defense is not a crime. Marissa should not be doing time," a group of about 50 people holding hands chanted upon her release, calling for her to be pardoned.
Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, a civil rights organizer, had come from Chattanooga, Tennessee to support Alexander.
"Marissa's story resonates with people because it was a victimless crime," she said. "There is no justice in it."
(Writing by Letitia Stein; Editing by Will Dunham, Dan Grebler and Eric Walsh)