A Salt Lake man whose attorneys admitted that he killed his girlfriend pleaded guilty Monday to a reduced charge of manslaughter as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors.
The plea bargain was the focus of several hearings in 3rd District Court earlier this year. Monday's plea marked the third time the Salt Lake County attorney's office has reversed its position in the case.Gary Rosendahl, 32, was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of Leslie Robinson, 26. Prosecutors met with defense attorneys in April and agreed to let him plead guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter, but then changed their minds.
Defense attorney Brooke Wells said the prosecution withdrew its agreement because Salt Lake County Attorney David Yocom would not allow the manslaughter plea to go forward and wanted Rosendahl to face the higher second-degree murder charge.
Wells fought the reversal and asked Judge Michael Murphy to force the county to accept the plea bargain it once offered. Defense attorney Joe Fratto also argued that Rosendahl could not get a fair trial because of media reports explaining that Rosendahl admitted guilt in the death of his girlfriend.
But Murphy denied the motion in May and said the court has the ultimate decision on whether or not to accept plea bargains. Yet despite his ruling, the county attorney's office allowed Rosendahl to plead guilty to manslaughter Monday.
Prosecutor Ernie Jones said he allowed the plea bargain to go forth because it was better than risking a possible acquittal during a trial.
"This case is totally circumstantial," he said, explaining that there were no eyewitnesses to the shooting and little physical evidence. "It would be an extremely tough case to prosecute."
"I made the offer clear back in April and they were willing to accept it," he said. "It's not something we took lightly."
When asked if the on-again, off-again plea bargain was a result of political re-election campaigns of Yocom or Sheriff Pete Hayward, Jones declined to comment.
Robinson's nude body was found in the snow atop East Canyon on Dec. 15, 1989. Rosendahl was arrested and charged with her death a month and a half later.
Rosendahl also pleaded guilty to attempted theft by receiving, reduced from a charge of auto theft. In July, he pleaded guilty to forging his dead girlfriend's $4,800 inheritance check. Prosecutors say he came into possession of the check three days before Robinson was killed.
He was sentenced to 18 months probation for forging the check. He will be sentenced for the manslaughter and theft charges on Dec. 10.
Jones said he will write a letter to the Utah State Board of Pardons recommending that Rosendahl be incarcerated longer than the minimum mandatory of one year in prison. Manslaughter, a second-degree felony, carries a sentence of 1 to 15 years.