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Former NASA Astronaut into his first full week in prison

Astronaut James Halsell aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis in the year 2000

Veteran Space Shuttle crewmember James Halsell is spending his first full week behind bars after pleading guilty last week to two counts of manslaughter in a 2016 traffic crash that killed two sisters. The astronaut also admitted to two more felony counts of DUI assault. Before sentencing, Halsell’s defense team argued against putting the astronaut in prison. Tuscaloosa County District Hays Webb says he opposed the idea of no jail time or even probation.

“Um…I’ll say this,” Hays contended. “As we busily strive daily to do the law and public safety, we absolutely positively believe in incarceration, whether in jail or in prison, and we think it has an effect.”

Webb argued against the possibility of parole for the five time veteran crewmember of NASA’s Space Shuttle program. After Halsell was sentenced to prison time, Webb met with reporters in the hallway outside the courtroom to explain his preference for jail time.

“People don’t like it, that’s why they want to go trial instead of pleading guilty, because they don’t like going to jail, they don’t being behind bars, they don’t like going to prison,” said Webb. “So, it’s a tool in our tool box that we think, in appropriate cases, we continue to want to have people serve more time.”

Halsell received what’s called a twenty split four sentence. That means he has to spend four years in prison. APR news was in the Tuscaloosa County courtroom when Halsell pleaded guilty and his sentence was handed down. You can hear that story at our website,

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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