A 21-year-old man charged with first-degree felony murder in a 2015 slaying received six years probation Monday.
Prosecutors said Robert Thompson, then 18, drove his friends Briston Smith and Abram Young to a planned robbery on March 2, 2015, that left Chase Holsey, 19, dead.
But they allowed Thompson to plead to a lesser crime than murder earlier this month, because there wasn't much proof he knew a robbery was going to happen, his attorney said. As a result, Thompson faced six years behind bars instead of a life sentence.
Attorneys could not agree on whether Thompson should serve that sentence in prison, or receive alternative punishment allowing him to expunge the conviction after six years' probation.
Hamilton County Criminal Court Judge Barry Steelman opted Monday for six years supervised probation, in part because of strides Thompson has made to rehabilitate his life.
"Mr. Thompson has tried to move his life in a positive direction by attaining his high-school diploma while in custody, attaining college certificates, and maintaining employment while on bond," his defense attorney, Garth Best, argued in court documents.
According to previous testimony, Thompson and his girlfriend were running errands when Smith called and asked for a ride from a recreation center on Highway 58.
On the way back, Smith asked if they could pick up Young. They wanted to buy marijuana from a guy whom Smith had texted by accident — Holsey — and Thompson agreed to drive them.
In the parking lot, Briston and Young got into Holsey's car. When an argument broke out, Briston told Young to shoot Holsey, and then both fled, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors never believed Thompson pulled the trigger. But if someone dies while you're committing a felony, you can be charged with felony first-degree murder, which carries life in prison.
All three men were charged with felony first-degree murder and committing an especially aggravated robbery.
Smith, the first to be tried, received a life sentence after a jury trial in June 2017. Young, a minor in 2015, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received a 23-year sentence.
After his murder charges were tossed, Thompson pleaded guilty to facilitation of attempted especially aggravated robbery, a Class C felony that carries three to 15 years, because the proof showed he had very little knowledge of a planned robbery, Best said.
The county district attorney's office declined to comment Tuesday.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.