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Deal reached in assault case against man whose murder conviction was dismissed after 16 years in prison

Deal reached in assault case against man whose murder conviction was dismissed after 16 years in prison
Reggie Cole listens to testimony in a Compton court in 2015. Cole, who served 16 years in prison after he was wrongfully convicted of a 1994 murder, reached a plea deal with prosecutors in an unrelated assault case Friday. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

For the second time, Reggie Cole is walking out of court a free man.

Cole, whose murder conviction in a 1994 killing was previously overturned after he spent 16 years in prison, pleaded no contest this week to mayhem and assault charges stemming from an unrelated 2012 shooting, and will be allowed to serve a suspended sentence of 18 years, according to Sarah Ardalani, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. He must also serve five years of formal probation and perform 200 hours of community service, Ardalani said.

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Superior Court Judge Laura Walton also ordered Cole on Thursday not to associate with members of the street gang that prosecutors claim Cole belongs to, Ardalani said.

The 42-year-old Compton native has been in legal battles with the city and the district attorney's office for years, arguing that he had nothing to do with the 1994 murder of a man shot outside a South L.A. brothel that sent him to prison for years. Cole and his friend, Anthony Obie, were convicted of murder based largely on the testimony of an eyewitness who judges later determined had lied on the stand.

Cole's conviction was eventually thrown out, and he was released from prison in 2011.

A judge found him "factually innocent" of the 1994 shooting, ruling than the Los Angeles Police Department detectives who investigated the slaying had withheld potential exculpatory evidence and knew their star witness — a pimp who was offered a reduced sentence on unrelated charges in exchange for his testimony — had been untruthful.

He settled a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit against the city for $5.2 million this year. Obie received $8 million in a settlement with the city from a similar suit.

But Cole was arrested again in 2015, when he was accused of shooting a gang member in the leg three years earlier. He faced a life sentence if convicted.

During his trial last year, a jury deadlocked on the mayhem and assault charges.

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for crime and police news in California.

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