A judge has imposed a gag order on attorneys concerning a plea bargain that will allow a 16-year-old girl accused in a burglary-slaying to be released with credit for nearly two years in jail.
Aletha Austin would be released after pleading guilty to unspecified charges under terms of the deal, announced last week during a brief hearing before 2nd District Judge Pamela Heffernan."Because she's 16 years old and has spent nearly two years in jail," is all deputy Weber County Attorney Gary Heward would say of the motivation behind the plea bargain. He refused further comment as did defense attorney Geoffrey Clark.
Final details are being ironed out, and further courtroom airing of the terms of the negotiation was continued to May 27.
After a pre-sentence investigation, and finalization of details regarding supervision of her probation by authorities in Illinois, Austin could be released from jail in five weeks, the judge said.
Austin will move to Illinois to live with her father upon her release from the Weber County Jail where she has been since November of 1996 after she was certified to stand trial for murder as an adult.
Before then, she had been held in a juvenile jail. She turns 17 in December.
She did nod her head in agreement Tuesday when Clark told the judge Austin had finished her studies in jail eight weeks ago for her high school diploma.
Prosecutors have said she was a willing participant on July 24, 1996, when she, her 16-year-old brother Robert, and their 24-year-old street-dwelling friend, Michael Munson, allegedly set out to rob Mun-son's grandmother and her husband in North Ogden for guns and money.
Clark has maintained throughout that his client didn't know the plans included murder, or that her brother carried a knife with which he stabbed 67-year-old Edward John Anderson 24 times.
Wanda Lorraine Anderson, 72, was left to lie unconscious for 20 hours, next to her dying husband.
Robert and ringleader Munson are serving life prison terms after pleading guilty a year ago.
Under terms of the plea bargain, the Weber County Attorney's Office also will drop a motion seeking to disqualify defense attorney Clark from defending Austin.
Clark has been under investigation by prosecutors and the Utah State Bar over allegations he tells clients to lie in court. Prosecutors have also filed an assault charge against him for allegedly striking a client.