Two teenagers who took part in the fatal robbery of a Spokane taxi driver pleaded guilty to reduced charges Monday instead of risking conviction for first-degree murder.
Joshua Kaczor, 18, received a 10-year prison term after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.
Seventeen-year-old Kory Ludwig got a 2-year term after pleading guilty to second-degree rendering criminal assistance.
Both teens were charged along with 21-year-old Alon Slater, who police say killed cab driver Duane “Dusty” Hutsell with a handgun in north Spokane on March 6.
Slater, who was due to stand trial in Spokane County Superior Court this week, is likely to plead guilty next Monday, defense attorney John Rodgers said.
Both teens told authorities they had no idea Slater planned to kill Hutsell when he phoned Lilac Cabs the night of the slaying, requesting a taxi.
But according to court records, Kaczor and Minor told police that before the cab arrived, Slater told the teens, “When I slit his throat, you guys grab the money.”
When Hutsell arrived, the trio told him to drive to the Cedar Sands Apartments, 212 E. Wedgewood. He stopped at the corner of Standard and Hill ‘N’ Dale, apologized for making a wrong turn and said he’d charge them only $3.50.
Slater reportedly said, “Thank you, sir, but give me all your money. This is a robbery.”
As Hutsell tried to leave the cab, Slater shot him twice, a police affidavit said.
Ludwig, who has no criminal record, was considered the least culpable of the three, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors offered Kaczor only a second-degree murder plea since they had evidence that the gun used in the slaying had come from his girlfriend.
‘Joshua denied that he had stolen the gun,” said Kaczor’s attorney, Scott Mason. “But since we were facing (a serious charge), we decided the plea bargain was the best choice.”
As part of the bargain, Deputy Prosecutor Jack Driscoll recommended that Kaczor get the low end of the sentencing range. The high end for second-degree murder is a 20-year prison term.
Superior Court Judge Paul Bastine agreed with Driscoll’s recommendations.
As he finished Ludwig’s sentence, Bastine told the teen he hoped that after time in prison “… you will be in the position of making better choices for yourself. I certainly hope that happens.”