Judge rejects ex-officers' plea deal in boy's death

Monday, March 31st 2008, 11:58 am
By: News 9

By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9

NORMAN, Okla. -- The death of five-year-old Austin Haley last summer shook up the small Cleveland County town of Noble.

It also shook up the Noble Police Department, since some officers were allegedly responsible for the child's death.

The case has come to a dramatic end in court. It's a rare occurrence when a judge rejects a plea bargain. But that's what District Judge Tom Lucas did in the case of the state of Oklahoma versus two former Noble police officers.

Shawn Richardson and Brad Rogers were charged with second degree manslaughter.

Last August, Rogers, acting under Richardson's supervision, fired a shot at a snake in Noble location.

The shot struck and killed the five-year-old who was fishing nearby.

The two men agreed to enter pleas in exchange for two year deferred sentences.

But on Friday a dozen Haley family members opposed the plea bargain in court--and called for 30 to 90 days in jail for both men.

"I appreciate the judge giving us the opportunity to actually, you know, tell the court how we feel and as I understand it, the judge did not have to give us this opportunity, and we appreciate it from the depths of our hearts," Austin's mother, Renee Haley said.

Monday morning, Judge Lucas rejected the plea bargain. Lucas said a longer deferred sentence was more appropriate for such a negligent act. Rogers and Richardson agreed to let the judge sentence them. The result--Richardson got five years deferred; Rogers, two and a half.

"We still believe that some jail time is not out of question, or out of reason, but we're in agreement with what the judge has come up with, completely," Austin's father, Jack Haley said.

"This has been a nightmare for everybody involved in this case, and we are grateful that there is no jail or prison time," Richardson's attorney, Susan Knight said.

The case is over legally--or is it?

The Haley family in the future may contest any effort by the two former officers to expunge the finding of guilt from the court record. The family says, ‘we don't know how we'll feel about this in two and a half or five years'.

Richardson and Rogers will also have to perform hundreds of hours of community service, pay small fines and surrender their CLEET certification.