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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Man Offers Guilty Plea in Killing

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The man who allegedly tried to rob a Bank of America customer before fatally shooting him and taking his car has offered to admit guilt and go to prison rather than risk a death-penalty conviction in a trial, prosecutors said Thursday.

A preliminary hearing in Antelope Municipal Court for Christopher A. Mann, 19, of Palmdale was postponed Thursday so prosecutors can consider the offer and consult with the victim’s family. Mann faces the death penalty if convicted of murder during a robbery.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Chesley McKay said any plea-bargain agreement would include a “substantial” prison sentence for Mann. He said the early plea offer, which is unusual in a capital case, showed “the evidence is obviously very good.”

McKay said authorities have “lots of stuff on tape,” referring to a videotape recorded by a bank camera. Authorities said Mann appears on the tape.

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Mann is accused of trying to rob Hans Christian Herzog, 46, of Lancaster on March 5 outside the bank branch on Lancaster Boulevard. Mann allegedly confronted Herzog in his car, fatally shot him and then took the car.

McKay told Municipal Court Judge Ian Grant of Mann’s offer without going into details. Outside court, McKay refused to elaborate on the pending deal, except to say that Mann had made a firm offer.

The preliminary hearing set for Mann was rescheduled to May 17. Also set for that date is the preliminary hearing for Wesley D. Harper, 22, of Lancaster, who allegedly drove Mann to the bank that day.

Both had previously pleaded not guilty in the case and remained in custody Thursday without bail.

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McKay said he will present Mann’s offer to his bosses in the district attorney’s headquarters.

One week before the slaying, Mann had escaped from a halfway house in Van Nuys, where he had been sent as a prelude to release by state authorities after serving one year of a three-year prison sentence for a 1991 felony joy-riding conviction.


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