Do you call this justice?
News broke today that Shane Ragland has pleaded guilty, after 13 years, to killing UK football player Trent DiGiuro way back in 1994.
Originally convicted of murder and set to stand trial again later this year after the conviction was overturned, Ragland steadfastly proclaimed his innocence and even had a Web site set up saying he didn't do it.
Now he has finally admitted his role in the slaying, but his guilty plea was to manslaughter, not murder. It appears as of this writing that his sentence will be time served and he will soon be a free man, a prisoner only of his own conscience.
Since his arrest and after the evidence linking him to DiGiuro's killing became public, Ragland always struck us as a punk who hid behind his daddy's money and political power in Frankfort. Indeed, we expect that young Shane will be pardoned by the next Democrat governor who comes along, be it Casinoman Beshear or someone on down the pike in future years.
The motive behind this senseless killing was especially appalling -- it seems Ragland blamed DiGiuro for blackballing him from joining a fraternity, and that's why Ragland ambushed DiGiuro as the football player was on the porch at a party at a Lexington residence.
We always felt that DiGiuro's death was something that hastened the end of the Bill Curry era at UK. The team never recovered from the shock and tragedy, especially as the case grew colder as time went by without any clues emerging.
We can partly understand the prosecution's desire to plead this one out. Problems with the first trial threatened to overshadow the retrial, and the availability of Ragland's ex-girlfriend, a key witness, was in question. Supposedly she felt threatened by the Ragland family and was reluctant to testify again. (We believe that certain members of the Ragland family ought to be indicted for intimidating a witness for the way she has been treated). And while the defense has made statements saying they felt they could prove Ragland's innocence (or more properly, that the state could not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt), they knew going to trial was a roll of the dice and they could not be 100 percent confident of a verdict of acquittal.
We really have no qualms with the manslaughter plea, either. Whether it's murder or manslaughter, Ragland has finally admitted to what he did. But we do have problems with what appears to be the sentence. Time served? That's only eight years and change, plus several months on home incarceration. We really think that Ragland should serve at least 10 more years, given the premeditated and petty nature of his crime.
Was this a good outcome? Has justice been served? We have our doubts, but we are glad for the DiGiuro family that the ordeal is finally over and they can have some closure to this case that has haunted them for nearly a decade and a half.