A last minute plea deal ends one of the most talked about trials in recent memory. Evansville businessman Ira Beumer pleaded guilty to criminal recklessness, a Class C felony, after once facing murder, attempted murder and battery causing serious bodily injury charges.
The plea deal was announced Wednesday morning as the third day of the trial was about to begin. As a result of pleading guilty to criminal recklessness, Beumer faces two to eight years in prison. A grand jury indicted Buemer of murder charges in May 2012 for allegedly running his truck into a car full of men who had just robbed him at gun point. The crash killed one of the men, Antuan Jenkins, on impact.
The men who robbed Beumer's home that night in February 2012 have each received 40 years in prison in separate plea agreements. Nalakeio Bennet was the first to plead guilty to charges of burglary, criminal confinement and theft. His charges carried criminal gang enhancements. Dezmont Hogan and Jeton Hall also pleaded guilty to similar charges but without the gang enhancement. Eric Dunn, who was not in the car, was arrested leaving the scene in another vehicle. Dunn pleaded guilty to assisting a criminal.
In their opening statements, prosecutors told the jury that the case was very different. How Beumer's trial ended was plenty evident of that. Beumer's plea deal came as a shock for many people in the standing-room-only crowd in Vanderburgh Circuit Court.
"If it was up to me, I would have given [Beumer] the damn electric char," said Martin Carter, the father of Jeton Hall. "He killed a boy and put another boy in the hospital."
"It was a strange case in where the victim -- who was the victim in 5 cases that our office handled -- became the accused in another one," said Chief Deputy Prosecutor Gary Schutte. "Under the law, that's unique."
The three men who survived the Feb. 19, 2012 crash testified before the grand jury that ultimately indicted Beumer on murder charges. Even though they were under subpeona, they refused to testify. This limited the State's case, Schutte said, and restricted what evidence prosecutors could and could not present.
"We have to base our decision on what the jury has heard," Schutte said. "Up to that point, we had thought that what [Beumer] was proposing -- which was the criminal recklessness plea -- fit the evidence that the jury had heard."
"Eight years? Come on. Where's the justice in that?" Martin said. "My son and [the other men] did wrong but they get 40 years and he only gets eight years?"
"The evidence was different in those cases versus the evidence we were able to present in this case," Schutte said. "Those conclusions have to be reached independently based on what we are able to show a jury."
Schutte said it was Beumer who approached the state with the plea deal but both sides had worries about how the jury might find. During the first two days of the trial, a large crowd of people packed the courtroom, including many attorneys who were not associated with the case.
"The case presented a lot of questions in the law that we just don't face very often," Schutte said. "Simply put, we were dealing with areas of the law that, from the prosecution's perspective, from the defense's perspective, even from the judiciary's perspective, you just don't see very often."
Beumer will be sentenced April 23rd and remains on house arrest. He faces two to eight years in prison but could receive credit for time served.
The Beumer family declined to comment.
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