A federal judge sentenced a Montana bride to 30 years in prison Thursday for pushing her new husband of eight days off a cliff in Glacier National Park last summer during an argument, The Missoulian reports.
Jordan Linn Graham, 22, agreed to a plea deal in December near the end of her murder trial, admitting that she shoved 25-year-old Cody Johnson from a ledge in the Montana park.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ordered her to serve 365 months in federal prison without the possibility of parole and also barred her from benefiting in any way from revealing additional details about the murder,The Missoulian reports.
Molloy said he did not find Graham remorseful over her husband's death, the newspaper reports. The judge said he kept waiting for her to say she was sorry for the killing, but that she never did.
Prosecutors had asked the court to sentence Graham to life in prison or at least 50 years. Her defense attorney described Graham's offense as an "extremely reckless but unintentional act" that warrants only 10 years in prison, with five years of supervised release.
Graham said at her original trial that she had had second thoughts about being married so young and went with her new husband to the park to talk about it. She said they were arguing heatedly at the edge of a steep cliff when Johnson grabbed her and she angrily shoved back.
"I wasn't thinking about where we were. ... I just pushed," Graham said.
Initially, Graham did not tell anybody what had happened, instead making up a story that Johnson had gone for a "joyride" with friends from Washington state.
Prosecutors said three facts indicated Graham was "planning and considering" murder: She was unhappy in her new marriage, she somehow ended up with the only set of keys to the car Johnson drove into the park July 7, and she texted a friend saying that if the friend didn't hear from her at all again that night, "something happened."
Before Thursday's sentencing, Molloy turned down Graham's request to withdraw the plea at the beginning of the sentencing hearing in Missoula.
In denying Graham's bid to withdraw her guilty plea, Molloy rejected the defense argument that the prosecution was trying to use premeditation as a basis for its sentencing request even though it had agreed to drop the premeditated first-degree murder charge.
Defense attorney Michael Donahoe argued that the prosecutor's request for a life sentence showed that their offer to dismiss the first-degree murder charge was an "empty promise" and a way to avoid a possible verdict of manslaughter, an even less serious offense.
In response, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kris McLean said Graham changed her mind after reading the court's pre-sentencing report on the average sentences in Montana and nationwide for murder.
Contributing: Associated Press