By Jared Ritz
A man sentenced two years ago to 10 years in prison for his part in a double homicide in Havre is being released from custody today.
The state Supreme Court on June 7 threw out the conviction of Jacob Gary Spang on two counts of intimidation by accountablity and one charge of tampering with physical evidence. Afterward Hill County Attorney David Rice said he would retry Spang.
But today Spang entered into a plea agreement and pleaded guilty to one count of intimidation by accountability, a felony. District Court Judge John Warner accepted the agreement and sentenced Spang to 981 days in prison with credit for time served. That is the amount of time Spang has spent in prison.
Rice said that after reviewing the evidence and the strength of the state's case, he thought it was best to not pursue a retrial. The Supreme Court's decision to throw out Spang's admissions, as well as the unreliablity of the prosecution's witnesses, were major factors in his decision, he said.
Rice said that he had spoken with family members of the victims, and that they were relieved to have the case finished.
"We felt that it resolved the matter for the victims," he said. "They were satisfied with this resolution."
Spang, who was 19 at the time, was sentenced in 2000 to two 10-year sentences and a one-year sentence, all of which were to be served concurrently.
Those convictions sprang from the slaying of Havre residents Kristi Walker and Kevin Caplette in 1999 by Reid Danell, a friend of Spang's. Spang was with Danell at the scene of the homicides and fled to Great Falls with him afterward.
Danell was convicted of two counts of homicide and is serving a life sentence in prison.
In its ruling earlier this month, the Supreme Court said that then Havre Assistant Police Chief Kevin Olson violated Spang's rights by continuing to interrogate him after Spang had asked to have a lawyer present.
The court's ruling stated that because the testimony derived in that interview was heavily used in his trial, Spang's convictions must be thrown out. The court also ruled that if a retrial did occur, Spang's comments from the interrogation could not be used against him.
Olson, who is now police chief, declined to comment today on the outcome of the case.
In the plea agreement reached between Spang's attorney, Carl White, and Rice, Spang admitted to loading the gun used to kill the two victims, gathering items from the victims' garage, and failing to intervene or interfere in the homicides.
White's reaction to the ruling was one of satisfaction.
"I'm pleased," he said. "The Supreme Court decision was right."
He said that the plea agreement had been in the works for the past couple of weeks.