The woman accused of killing an FBI agent more than two years ago pleaded guilty this morning to voluntary manslaughter and discharging a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence.
Under a negotiated sentence, U.S. District Judge Terrence F. McVerry sentenced Christina Korbe, 42, to 190 months. The sentence is 70 months on the voluntary manslaughter charge, which will be followed by 120 months on the firearms charge, to be served consecutively. That will be followed by three years on supervised release. The Korbes also must forfeit their house at 111 Woods Run Road in Indiana Township. Judge McVerry recommended that Mrs. Korbe be incarcerated in a prison close to Pittsburgh.
After the plea and sentencing concluded, members of the family of FBI Special Agent Samuel Hicks spoke.
The agent's widow, Brooke Hicks, said that "the most important thing was she stood up in that courtroom and accepted responsibility for shooting Sam." She said she likes the fact that Mrs. Korbe cannot appeal the sentence. "That gives me peace. Though everyone in here would have loved to see her do more time."
Mrs. Hicks characterized the apology offered during the hearing by Mrs. Korbe as fake, because, she said, Mrs. Korbe immediately followed it by blaming the government for the shooting. But she said that by pleading guilty, Mrs. Korbe accepted responsibility.
PDF: Christina Korbe
At the hearing, which started at 9 a.m., Mrs. Korbe entered the standing-room-only courtroom in a red jail jumpsuit, her hair in braids. There were dozens of FBI agents in the courtroom. She hugged her attorney, Caroline Roberto, when she came in. The guilty plea was entered shortly before 10 a.m. and the sentencing took place shortly before 11 a.m.
Mrs. Korbe's husband, Robert R. Korbe, who was the original target of that early morning arrest warrant, pleaded guilty in May to mail fraud and cocaine distribution charges, along with possessing illegal firearms. He was sentenced in September to serve 25 years in prison.
Agent Hicks, 33, was killed when he was the first person to make entry into the Korbe home. Mrs. Korbe fired a single shot from the upstairs of the house that struck and killed him.
She claimed that she believed that someone was breaking into their home, and that she fired the shot to protect herself and her children.
In court today, Mrs. Korbe had her head down as Assitant U.S. Attorney Troy Rivetti read a summary of how Agent Hicks died that morning.
Mrs. Korbe had a three-page statement that her family said she planned to read to the family of Agent Hicks, who was killed early in the morning of Nov. 19, 2008, when he and a team of law enforcement officers arrived at the Korbe home in Indiana Township to serve an arrest warrant on her husband. In court this morning she made other remarks, including calling for an end to early-morning raids, saying they are too dangerous.
Agent Hicks' mother and widow read statements during the sentencing phase. Brooke Hicks spoke about the couple's son Noah and how much her husband loved him. She told Mrs. Korbe she will never forgive her for the shooting. Agent Hicks' mother, Charlotte, spoke of her son's love of life and dedication to family and public service.
In the written statement her family submitted to the media, which she did not read word for word, Mrs. Korbe said, "To the Hicks family, I am deeply, deeply sorry, more than you'll ever know," Mrs. Korbe wrote. "There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about your son, your husband, your father, your brother, your friend, and wish it were me instead of him."
The statement goes on to say that she would never intentionally harm another person, and she asks for forgiveness.
However, she also spends a great deal of time in the letter blaming the FBI for what happened, saying that the lives of "two families were changed forever, because of the unnecessary tactics of the FBI."
"I have never denied that I was the one who fired that fateful shot that morning and am taking on that responsibility. I still have not heard the FBI taking any responsibility in all of this because they refuse to accept that their unnecessary actions played an integral part," she wrote.
Mrs. Korbe goes on to blame the FBI for harassing her family, fabricating evidence and threatening witnesses. She also said that she has been "unfairly overprosecuted."
In her letter, Mrs. Korbe said the actions of the FBI have made the likelihood of her getting a fair trial "almost impossible."
"In God's eyes, all life is valued," she wrote. "There is no prison sentence for the blood on their hands in this case and countless others."
"The federal government justifies its actions by twisting the law as well as the truth because there is nobody who polices these branches of law enforcement."
Mrs. Korbe called the real victims in the shooting her two children, who were 5 and 10 at the time, and Agent Hicks' son, who was 2.
"Both of our families have suffered a great loss, there are three children that are the real victims in this horrible tragic accident," Mrs. Korbe wrote. "I believe the government has lost sight of that fact on its quest for vengeance, by calling it justice."
But then, she goes on: "To the Hicks family, again, I am so, so, so sorry. As a mother, all I know is to protect my babies from harm even if it is my life for theirs. I did what any mother would in the darkness of night, when someone or something is threatening your children's safety."
She goes on to thank her family and tell them that she loves them.
But she concluded the letter by taking a parting shot at the federal government.
"To my prosecutors, I hold no unforgiveness towards you. You may think that you've taken everything from me, but you can never take away what really matters. No matter the outcome of this case is. There is no winners," she wrote. "We've all lost something that nothing can replace. I pray for mercy, not just for myself but also for all who have already judged me, that God gives you mercy on your day of judgment. I also pray for peace for all involved. Please leave me and my family be."
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org