A reality TV star is outraged after her sister’s killer gets just months in jail

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A Miami reality TV star and her family are outraged after her sister’s killer got mere months in jail for shooting her in the head.

Michael McGowan pleaded guilty to manslaughter for accidentally firing a bullet into Giselle “Gigi” Rengifo May 18, 2020, when they were both 17. 

“This judge LODY JEAN is the reason why kids are killing each other, and they don’t care bc they know they won’t even do any jail time,” the victim’s sister, Salomé Jackson, railed on Instagram.

McGowan brought an illegal gun to a Florida house party at an Airbnb, and the attendees took turns passing it around —including Rengifo — before he accidentally killed her, according to his own admission and witnesses.

After a lengthy hearing Thursday and over the objections of the victim’s stunned family and prosecutors, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Lody Jean delivered the slap on the wrist to 20-year-old McGowan. 

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A photo combination of Michael McGowan and Giselle Rengifo. McGowan was sentenced to a few months in jail for accidentally shooting Rengifo when they were both 17. 

A photo combination of Michael McGowan and Giselle Rengifo. McGowan was sentenced to a few months in jail for accidentally shooting Rengifo when they were both 17.  (Miami Dade Police Department/Instagram)

“This is what you call Justice here in America?” the victim’s sister, Salomé Jackson, a cast member of VH1’s reality show “Cartel Crew,” railed against the judge on Instagram. “Playing with my family. Letting us beg in court to give this man years and they gave him NOTHING! Justice was NOT SERVED TODAY!”

“Oftentimes when the victims is Black the perpetrator of the crime is under charged by prosecutors and under sentenced by the court system,” family attorney Jasmine Rand told Fox News Digital

The sentence amounts to about a month in jail and three to four months in a rehabilitation program for young offenders called Boot Camp, followed by four years of probation.

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The grieving family members — Jackson, her mother, Catherine Jackson, and brother, Jonathan Jackson, — exploded in tears and anger when the sentence was handed down.

After the courtroom was cleared, Rengifo’s furious brother tried to re-enter and was restrained by six police officers, according to footage captured by local TV stations.

Miami Judge Lody Jean of the 11th Circuit sentenced Michael McGowan to a few months in jail for shooting Giselle Rengifo in the head. 

Miami Judge Lody Jean of the 11th Circuit sentenced Michael McGowan to a few months in jail for shooting Giselle Rengifo in the head.  (Facebook)

The outburst came after an emotional hearing in which the family begged for the maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. 

The family’s attorney, Jasmine Rand, said the decision was motivated by racial bias. “Oftentimes when the victims is Black, the perpetrator of the crime is under charged by prosecutors and under sentenced by the court system,” she told Fox News Digital.

She pointed to the Miami killing of 15-year-old teenager Arya Gray, who was accidentally shot by 17-year-old Thalys Oliveira while he was playing with a gun.

Oliveira was tried as an adult and sentenced in the same Miami-Dade County courthouse by a different judge to 11.5 years in prison. 

Thalys Oliveira (right) got 11.5 years in prison after he accidentally shot Arya Gray when they were both 17.

Thalys Oliveira (right) got 11.5 years in prison after he accidentally shot Arya Gray when they were both 17. (Gunmemorial.org/Miami Dade Rehabilitation and Correction)

“Arya and Gigi were killed 6 days apart, 5 miles apart, but the justice system in Miami is a world away from giving equal value to Black life,” Rand said.

Assistant State Attorney Michael Spivack argued in a presentencing motion that “a sentence of a few months would be contrary to the high value our society places on human life.” and “would send the wrong message to the community.”

He added that there is a need for a sentence that serves as a deterrent given that “far too many treat a firearm as a toy to be recklessly played with as opposed to an instrument of death.” 

Shortly after Rengifo’s shooting, McGowan was arrested on one count of first-degree manslaughter with a deadly weapon. 

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He served about a month in a juvenile facility before his case was transferred to adult court, and he was released with a GPS ankle monitor and without having to post bail, court records show.

Salomé Jackson (right) gives her little sister, Giselle Rengifo, a kiss on the cheek. Rengifo was shot in the head by Michael McGown in 2020.

Salomé Jackson (right) gives her little sister, Giselle Rengifo, a kiss on the cheek. Rengifo was shot in the head by Michael McGown in 2020. (Instagram)

The case dragged through the criminal justice system for two years until McGowan pleaded guilty Thursday.

As an adult, he faced a minimum sentence of 11.5 years, which prosecutors argued for, and a maximum of 30. 

The plea was followed by a hearing to determine whether he would be granted youthful offender status — a designation that drastically reduces a convicted offender’s penalty. 

McGowan qualified for consideration given his age, lack of criminal history and nature of the crime. He was under 21 at the time of the shooting and the charged crime did not carry a potential life sentence. 

Giselle Rengifo, 17, was accidentally shot by Michael McGowan in 2020. 

Giselle Rengifo, 17, was accidentally shot by Michael McGowan in 2020.  (Instagram)

During the hearing, Catherine Jackson, tears streaming down her face, told McGowan that her daughter’s death had shattered her. “I can’t hear her call me mommy anymore,” she said, pointing at him, according to footage of the proceeding. “You took that from me. You killed me too.”

“I pray one day we are given a justice on Earth that is as color-blind as God’s love,” the victim’s mother, Catherine Jackson, said in a statement to Fox News Digital

Rengifo’s family has repeatedly said they do not believe the shooting was an accident.

Salomé Jackson, who goes by the stage name Betty Idol, appeared on VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta” before joining the cast of “Cartel Crew,” which centers around people who have family members with ties to Miami drug cartels.

Boasting 307,000 followers on Instagram, Salomé Jackson has used the platform to bring awareness to gun violence and to push for justice for her sister. 

During the hearing, defense lawyers Jude Faccidomo and Mycki Ratzan argued that McGowan had a deeply troubled upbringing and had endured abuse, neglect and homelessness. 

Salomé Jackson and her little sister Giselle Rengifo, 17. Rengifo was shot in head 2020 by Michael McGowan, who got a few months in jail for killing her.

Salomé Jackson and her little sister Giselle Rengifo, 17. Rengifo was shot in head 2020 by Michael McGowan, who got a few months in jail for killing her. (Instagram)

“At the time [of the shooting] he wasn’t attending high school and was headed down a dangerous path,” Faccidomo told Fox News Digital. 

The lawyer told the judge that McGowan bought the black handgun for protection after he was beaten and pistol-whipped. 

He turned his life around after the arrest, earning a high school diploma and working at a restaurant, Faccidomo said.

McGowan stood up, wearing a crisp, white button down shirt, and sobbed as he apologized to Rengifo’s family. “She’s not here, and I’m sorry that this is my fault,” he read from a statement. “Gigi was one of the sweetest, most beautiful people I ever knew.”

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He said he should have never brought the gun there that night and did so, in part, to make himself look cool. 

The young man tried to arrange a meeting with the Jacksons to apologize face-to-face — but they declined the invitation, Faccidomo said.

“His level of remorse has been incalculable since day one,” the attorney told Fox News Digital.

As a youthful offender, the judge could have sentenced him to a maximum of six years in prison. Instead, she ordered that he be held in jail until Boot Camp begins in October.

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Offenders in the program are given help finding a job, vocational and financial literacy training, and volunteer opportunities, according to Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation’s website.

The judge also required that McGowan go to high schools to speak to other teens about gun violence.

Salomé Jackson blasted the judge in an Instagram post on Sunday. 

“This judge LODY JEAN is the reason why kids are killing each other and they don’t care bc they know they won’t even do any jail time,” she wrote.

Catherine Jackson issued a statement after the sentencing saying her family had been cheated by the system and the judge.

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“The only comfort I have in this moment is in God’s perfect love, which is color-blind, and to know that Gigi is now resting in the Lord’s hands,” she said. “I pray one day we are given a justice on Earth that is as color-blind as God’s love.” 

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