TULSA -- A Tulsa judge deviated from the sentence recommended by a jury for two men convicted of first-degree rape.
Willie Jackson, 24, and Timothy Bussell, 22, were found guilty of raping an unconscious woman in 2014.
At the trial in June, a jury recommended the men be sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Today in court, Judge William LaFortune upheld the life in prison portion of the sentence but will allow the men to have the opportunity for parole.
The rape survivor, Abby McCarthy, said she felt relieved when she heard the sentence.
"I kind of feel relieved that they at least have some kind of chance," McCarthy said. "I'm not sending these two people to their deaths."
Jackson and Bussell's families pleaded with the judge in court today, saying the jury's recommendation was an "outrageous" sentence and these men are not dangerous sex offenders. They admitted the men made a mistake and needed to be punished, but life without parole was "over the top."
"They are around my age," McCarthy said. "I'm very sympathetic. Heck, I don't even hate them."
But she is angry and hurt by what they did to her. She said she still does not understand why they did it.
"I can't say I hate them," the survivor said. "I can't say I'm viciously angry at them and I want something terrible to happen to them. I am angry that they did this to me. I am hurt that they did this to me."
Now that the legal battle is over, McCarthy is hoping good things for herself moving forward.
"I've been having to live with, 'When is the next court date?' 'What's going to happen at the next court date?' 'What's going to happen when I see them next?'" McCarthy said. "I've had to deal with this for three years. It's finally over. What am I supposed to do?"
The prosecutors and defense agreed the judge had a hard decision to make in this case.
"I disagree with the judge's decision but I respect it," Prosecutor Kenneth Elmore said. "I understand his thought process and his rationale. Our position is always a jury of their peers recommended a sentence and we believe that is what is appropriate to follow."
Defense attorneys would not do an interview.
All attorney said they were considering filing appeals.
Stay in touch with us anytime, anywhere.
Sign up for newsletters emailed to your inbox. Select from these options: Breaking News, Severe Weather, School Closings, Daily Headlines and Daily Forecasts.