Plea Bargain in Hancock Park Slaying OKd
Kenneth Solomon, the accused getaway driver in the 1982 Hancock Park slaying of Princeton University basketball player Lawrence Raphael, has pleaded guilty to first-degree murder--but he will be allowed to go free if he testifies truthfully in the pending trial of alleged triggerman Ozell (Junebug) Johnson.
The unusual plea bargain was accepted late Thursday night, Deputy Dist. Atty. Stephen M. Barshop said, because Solomon, 29, is “a critical witness in the case” against Johnson.
Solomon and Johnson, South-Central Los Angeles residents, were charged with slaying Raphael during an aborted robbery attempt. The defendants--who were allegedly driving through the Hancock Park area looking for potential robbery victims--were accused of confronting Raphael and his girlfriend as they returned to the woman’s home after going out for ice cream.
Solomon agreed to the plea during the second week of his second trial before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Paul Turner, in the first case in the county’s new night court. His previous trial ended in a mistrial last June when jurors could not break a deadlock over the authenticity of a taped confession Solomon allegedly made to police.
Late Thursday, Solomon acknowledged in court that he had made the confession and he agreed to the plea bargain in order to “do what was in his best interest,” defense attorney Albert De Blanc Jr. said.
Turner will determine after Johnson’s trial whether Solomon’s testimony has been truthful. If the judge decides that Solomon, who has been jailed since his February 1984 arrest, has reneged on the deal, he will face a sentence from 25 years to life in prison, De Blanc said.