LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A judge has rejected a plea deal that would have included no prison time for a disgraced former Louisville police detective accused of framing several people for murders they didn't commit.
Mark Handy agreed to a plea deal earlier this summer on a charge of felony perjury related to a 1995 case that put a man in prison nearly a decade for a murder he didn't commit. A charge against Handy of tampering with physical evidence in another case has 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.
Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens rejected the deal on Thursday saying the penalty for Handy would not be equal to the injustice received by Edwin Chandler, the man who was wrongfully convicted.
Prosecutors say Handy forced Chandler into a false confession, taped over video evidence and lied on the stand in the Chandler case.
Instead, Stevens said he would sentence Handy to five years in prison. Handy and his attorneys immediately withdrew the guilty plea.
The case could now go to trial or the prosecution and defense could propose another plea deal. It could also be dismissed.
After the hearing, attorney Brian Butler, who represents Handy, said, "Obviously, we are disappointed that the Court didn't accept the agreement of the parties which would have put this matter behind everyone. But, that is the Judge's call to make and we will respect his decision."
Before Stevens ruled, 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."
Special Prosecutor Shane Young and Handy's attorney, Brian Butler, both 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 case, which is decades old, would be tough to take to trial given how much time has passed.
Chandler also spoke before Stevens ruled, 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. "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.
The dismissed tampering charge in Handy's case was related to manslaughter convictions against Keith West.
West's attorney argued that Handy taped over recording of two eyewitness statements and coerced them into specific testimony prior to trial.
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.
Handy also 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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