After holding out for months, hoping that a trial would lead to a shorter sentence, Christopher Easton pleaded guilty to attempted murder Tuesday morning, just as jury selection was about to begin.

Easton, 21, who was arrested in November, admitted to shooting Kevin Neary, a young entrepreneur who lived in Northern Liberties, during an attempted robbery.

Neary, 29, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, was walking home alone Nov. 15 after a night out with friends when Easton accosted him and demanded his wallet.

It contained only $16.

The bullet that tore through Neary's neck left him quadriplegic, unable to breathe on his own.

Easton, who was caught on tape by security cameras in the area and arrested three days later trying to escape through a friend's window in Philadelphia, maintained that he never intended to kill Neary.

Neary and his father, Joe, were on the way from their home in Chichester to the Criminal Justice Center in Center City when Assistant District Attorney Erin Boyle called to tell them about the plea.

"I'm relieved," Kevin Neary said. "I just wish I had been there to hear him say the words, 'I am guilty.' "

The sentencing hearing before Judge Jeffrey Minehart will be held Wednesday morning, said Richard DeSipio, Easton's attorney. Easton faces a minimum 20-year sentence.