6 months probation is about right for what he did anyway. I can't believe they're clogging prisons with petty criminals like this then turning violent criminals out because of over crowding. A BB gun as a deadly weapon? They're turning the legal system into a farce with that kind of bullshit.
Actually a BB gun can seriously injure someone. I was hit with a BB once (accidental) mind you, hitting me on my knuckle. That dig itself in bad. I do not want to think what it could do to an eye.
== the following below are generalizations of what the law says, counting variations across different jurisdictions within and outside the US ==
By law, a "deadly weapon" is not just a weapon that can kill for certain, but that has the potential to cause a serious injury that can lead to death. A BB to the eyeball at short range can do that. So can a rock being thrown to someone's face. In some jurisdictions around the world, a professional boxer's hands can be considered deadly weapons given that, unlike other people within their respective weight classes, professional boxes can kill someone with a punch to the temple.
The fact that using a BB gun has the potential to seriously injure someone makes its use a 3rd degree assault (potential to injury + recklessness). Use it to commit a crime and that shit by default ups it up to 2nd or even 1st degree depending of the circumstance.
Moreover, the law (as it should be) takes into consideration the state of mind of a potential victim. If the victim seriously thinks he is in physical danger, that is enough to bring a 3rd degree assault charge, even if the assault never takes place. This is more so if the person is put into a state of being scared of his well being or life while being subjected of a crime (then it goes to 2nd or 1st degree).
The person would have to know pretty well that the weapon is a BB gun and not a real gun. It is unreasonable to expect a person in a state of fright to recognize the two. If this were the case, one could argue I could attempt robbery with a fake gun (or a gun without rounds in it) and then claim in my defense that I did not use a deadly weapon. I hope I don't think I have to explain this one any further.
I disagree with you that 6 months probation was enough. This wasn't a harmless crime, and this person is a criminal.
I agree that we put petty criminals to jail too often. But armed robbery is not petty crime.
Breaking into a house when no one is there, and stealing a TV is. Cutting a bicycle chain to steal it, that is petty crime. Shoplifting is a petty crime. Selling bootlegged DVDs or dope is.
Armed robbery, subjecting a victim to a state of being afraid of his physical well being, that is not a petty crime.
What I'm really curious, and what I'm really afraid, and the real question of importance is: what the hell were the authorities so afraid to disclosed that they opted to drop charges and offer a plea. There is something absolutely wrong going on here if they have to cover that shit like that. That is the stuff we should we worried about.