Students weigh in on Grant Spencer verdict and the effects of Michael’s Law

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Devin Conway

Grant Spencer was charged with voluntary manslaughter on Tuesday and sentenced to 20 years in prison with a chance for parole after his 13th year. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Spencer, he is the former Georgia Southern student who worked at Rude Rudy’s, and while off-duty, got into an altercation at Rudy’s that ended in the death of another former Georgia Southern student, Michael Gatto. 

Gatto’s parents later played a key role in instituting ‘Michael’s Law’, which implemented a 21-and-up age restriction on every bar in the state of Georgia, as well as an age restriction for those who are employed at a bar in the state. 

After spending nearly two years in Bulloch County jail, Spencer was brought to trial and given the aforementioned sentence. I spoke to a few GS students about the verdict, the criminal justice system in general and the effects of Michael’s Law.

Skyler Hooper – Senior, Child and Family Development major

Now that Michael’s Law has been implemented, do you think that we can avoid these kind of scenarios in the future or do you think that it’s just a formality that isn’t going to affect anything going forward?

“You can’t really predict or prevent these kinds of things from happening. We can be hopeful that it well be effective, but really it’s hard to say. People get in bar fights all the time.” 

Steve DePaul – Sophomore, Undeclared

Do you think that there’s a problem with the criminal justice system when people get similar sentences for committing non-violent crimes? 

“Yeah, absolutely. That doesn’t make sense to me. It’s definitely something that needs to be looked at.” 

Joanna Pangburn – Sophomore, Economics major 

Obviously this wasn’t something that was premeditated. Do you think that the punishment, a sentence of 20 years, fits the crime? 

“Honestly, no. I don’t think so at all. I think that he was simply trying to do his job, and things just went too far.” 

Michael Shaw – Junior, Journalism major

All of the bars in the state of Georgia are now 21 and up. Is a 20 year old more likely to accidentally hurt somebody than a 21 year old? Is a 20 year old more likely to get hurt than a 21 year old? 

“They’re not going to stop 18, 19 or 20 year olds from drinking. Some of them can get into the bars anyway with their fake IDs, but I do understand why they’re cracking down on this, to at least try to minimize these kind of situations.”