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Sentence reduced for Georgia high school shooter

CONYERS, Georgia (CNN) -- A judge on Thursday cut in half the sentence given to a teen-ager who was convicted of shooting six classmates at his high school two years ago.

T.J. Solomon, 17, had been sentenced to 40 years in prison after being tried as an adult for the May 20, 1999, shootings at Heritage High School. That sentence was handed down by Rockdale County Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation.

But Nation reduced that sentence to 20 years after learning that the state parole board had decided it would keep Solomon in jail until he served 90 percent of his sentence. That ruling meant that Solomon would not be eligible for parole until he was 50.

Solomon's attorney, Ed Garland, applauded the judge's decision.

"Now there's hope where there was no hope," Garland told CNN. "There's light at the end of a long, dark tunnel for this boy."

Garland added that he hoped this would lead to a change in the parole board's 90 percent policy.

"It is really a policy that, as the court points out, is trying to make Georgia the toughest state in the union in terms of punishment and the least sensitive to the needs of prisoners," he said.

Garland said Solomon, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, suffers from adolescent schizophrenia that has continued while he is in prison.

Garland said Solomon's mental health played a role in the judge's decision.

"He found it bizarre that we treat a mentally ill child the same way we treat a 30-year-old, non-mentally ill, hardened criminal," he said. "Our parole board system is stupid in that regard."

Under the new sentence, Solomon could be paroled after serving 18 years, which, with time already served, could mean a parole hearing in 15 years.

Solomon's rampage at the school came just a month after the Columbine shootings in Littleton, Colorado, that killed 13 people -- one teacher and 12 students -- along with the two student gunmen who took their own lives.

At Solomon's trial, prosecutors said he believed the Columbine shooting was "cool" but that the gunmen there "wasted time aiming."

Solomon fired randomly with a sawed-off .22-caliber rifle in the commons area of the Conyers high school, striking six students. All six survived.

-- CNN Investigative Correspondent Art Harris contributed to this report.


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