LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A former Louisville police detective accused of framing several people for murders they didn’t commit has agreed to plead guilty to perjury and tampering with physical evidence and spend one year behind bars.
Under the plea deal, Mark Handy agrees not to seek probation for his one-year prison sentence.
The perjury charge involves lying on the stand during a murder trial. Handy also acknowledges he tampered with physical evidence by erasing an interview in a separate case, according to the plea deal in court records.
However, the proposed plea agreement between Handy’s defense attorneys and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office still must be approved on April 5 by Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens.
In August, Stevens rejected a plea deal that would have included no prison time for Handy.
Handy had previously agreed to a plea deal on a charge of felony perjury related to a 1995 case that put Edwin Chandler in prison nearly a decade for a murder he didn't commit. But the tampering with physical evidence charge in another case had been dismissed.
While he was facing up to five years in prison, the plea deal agreed to by the defense and prosecution would instead have put Handy on probation.
Stevens rejected that deal, saying the penalty for Handy would not be equal to the injustice received by Chandler. Handy and his attorneys withdrew the guilty plea.
Attorney Brian Butler, who represents Handy, declined to comment. Special Prosecutor Shane Young could not be immediately reached for comment.
The case was scheduled to go to trial on May 18.
Chandler supports the new plea deal, according to court records.
The proposed deal reinstates the tampering with physical evidence charge in the manslaughter convictions against Keith West.
Handy admits that he taped over the recording of a witness statement in the West case, according to the plea agreement.
Last year, Stevens refused to overturn West’s two 1997 manslaughter convictions, but former Gov. Matt Bevin pardoned West.
West spent about seven years behind bars for the shooting deaths of two men he said he killed in self-defense when they allegedly tried to kidnap and rape him.
In the Chandler case, Handy admits he testified untruthfully at trial as to something he said Chandler told him about the case, something only the murderer would have known.
“This testimony … led to the wrongful conviction of Edwin Chandler,” according to the plea agreement.
Before Stevens ruled in August, Handy apologized for his actions and to Chandler.
"I know words are not worth much," Handy said. "From the day I learned that Mr. Chandler had been wrongfully convicted I've been sick, ill. I can only apologize to him with all my heart and hope he can find some type of forgiveness."
He said he lives his "life now trying to make amends. I hope he can forgive me some day."
Young and Butler both had argued that Handy should receive probation instead of prison time.
Young told Stevens that Handy would now be a convicted felon and never work in law enforcement again. He also said the Chandler case, which is decades old, would be tough to take to trial given how much time has passed.
Chandler also spoke before Stevens ruled in August, saying he didn't understand why it has taken so long to get justice in his case but thanking both Young and Butler, among others, for their work, saying he held no ill will.
"This has taken a great precedence in my life, personally," he said at the time. "I've never in my life seen a case take this long. ... I've tried to piece my life together and move on, but at the same time it's disheartening and discouraging."
Chandler spent nine years in prison for the murder of Brenda Whitfield, which a court later found he did not commit. He was exonerated in 2012. Metro Government went on to pay him $8.5 million as a result of a wrongful conviction lawsuit.
West has a pending lawsuit filed against Louisville police, the city and several officers.
Four people with a conviction involving Handy have been exonerated. Handy’s investigations are the focus of multiple wrongful imprisonment lawsuits.
He played a central role in the investigation of two "satanic ritual" killings in Meade County. Jeffrey Clark and Keith Hardin were convicted for the 1995 murder of Rhonda Sue Warford. But then, in 2016, a judge threw out the conviction and the men were released
Clark and Hardin have since filed a federal lawsuit and accuse Handy of working with former Meade County Sheriff Joseph Greer, and others, to create a “false theory” that Clark and Hardin murdered Warford in a Satanic ritual killing.
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