LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - A man charged with fatally shooting a University of Kentucky football player as he celebrated his 21st birthday on a porch near campus pleaded guilty to manslaughter Monday.
In the plea agreement, Shane Ragland was sentenced to time served - six years, including credit for 14 months of house arrest - for the 1994 shooting of Trent DiGiuro.
Ragland was accused of targeting DiGiuro in revenge for keeping him out of a fraternity. He was convicted of murder in 2002 and sentenced to 30 years in prison, but he won a new trial after the state Supreme Court agreed that the prosecutor had made an inappropriate comment during trial and used inadmissible evidence concerning a bullet.
Ragland would have faced a retrial but pleaded guilty to manslaughter instead. His attorney, Steve Romines, said it was a "bittersweet" decision for Ragland, who he said was looking forward to trial to prove his innocence.
"He pleaded guilty," Romines said. "That's what it is. But if you talk to him today, he'll maintain his innocence. Only a fool, though, turns down walking out of court when you're facing life."
DiGiuro's father, Michael, said in a phone interview that he didn't agree with the plea but understood there was no choice.
"I don't think justice was done," he said. "Justice would be my son is still alive or Shane Ragland is in jail for life. We're not really excited about it, but we acquiesced."
Fayette County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson said the plea confirms Ragland was responsible for DiGiuro's death - an acknowledgment he says the family had been waiting for years to hear.
"It's over," Larson said. "He's pleaded guilty. He's now a convicted killer."
Larson said he decided to offer a plea after deciding not to call as a witness Ragland's former girlfriend, who told police several years ago he had admitted to the shooting. Larson refused to talk about her whereabouts but said he feared going forward with a trial could put her life at risk.
But Romines insisted the facts just weren't in the prosecutor's favor.
"They were going to lose at trial," he said. "The scientific evidence was clear we couldn't have done it."
Under the terms of the plea deal filed in Fayette County Circuit Court on Monday, Ragland must remain on electronic monitoring until Thursday.
Ragland has been staying at his father's house in Frankfort, Ky. A call there Monday wasn't immediately returned.
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