A Durham man charged with shooting a sleeping 10-year-old girl in 2017 pleaded guilty to multiple charges Thursday morning.

The guilty plea was made as part of a “restorative justice” program that some have called groundbreaking.

The case of James Berish, who admitted to shooting Deisy Medina through the floor of his apartment in May 2017, was the first restorative justice felony case in the state.

Berish was charged with criminally negligent discharge of a gun for the incident.

EARLIER: Durham man charged with shooting sleeping 10-year-old girl now free on bond

Authorities said he fired a shot through the floor of his apartment. The bullet traveled into the apartment below and hit Medina in the abdomen while she was sleeping.

The restorative justice process was completely voluntary on both sides. Medina’s family was initially reluctant to take part in the process, but both sides met on Tuesday night for about three hours.

Around 20 people, including both families and leaders with the restorative justice program, attended the meeting.

Both Berish and Medina’s family told their sides of the story.

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There was a “beautiful long embrace” with Deisy and Berish, said John Powel, who works with the program.

Berish brought flowers and a package of art supplies to the meeting. Deisy’s mother received the flowers and Berish started crying when he met Deisy, who he then gave the art supplies to. The girl immediately began to color using her new supplies.

Berish said in court Thursday that the program is great for Durham.

“It’s the best thing that could happen for Durham, especially for someone who grew up out here and knows what actually goes on,” he said. “So it’s the best thing that could happen for them. A lot of people out here need it because it’s people worse than me out here. So a lot of people need it.”

Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols said the program, “helps get to more appropriate dispositions” and “helps victims and puts defendants in a better position to succeed.”

According to those in attendance, Deisy’s family forgave Berish at the meeting and then everyone had a meal together.

Deisy Medina is doing well and her family said they got the answers they had been looking for and have now found peace and forgiveness.

State officials said that Berish is a man who made a mistake and owned it. His attorney, Nisha Williams, said he took full responsibility the next day when he found out what happened.

“He was terrified. He didn’t know what happened,” Williams said.

Berish left the apartment after the shooting and went to stay with family. When he found out Deisy was injured, he contacted police the next day and turned himself in.

Berish is the father of a 2-year-old daughter.

After pleading guilty, a judge issued a suspended prison sentence of 15-30 months and sentenced Berish to 24 months of supervised probation, along with special terms.

Berish must pay $1,380 to Jose Medina for counseling and must buy a new bed for the family. He is not allowed to have any deadly weapons and must share his story twice at gun safety awareness events. He is also required to give art supplies to Deisy, which he did on Tuesday night.

Once those special terms are completed, his probation will become unsupervised for the remained of the 24 months.

Echols said after the hearing that there are more cases like this coming in Durham.

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