A boy who at age 12 was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and improperly sentenced as an adult to serve 25 years in prison may be freed when he turns 18, according to a pending plea agreement.
Paul H. Gingerich, now 15, would remain at the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional facility and be freed after his 18th birthday if he meets terms of the agreement that still must be approved by a judge in Kosciusko County. Under the agreement, Gingerich will be eligible for release in February 2016.
The deal comes after Gingerich’s conviction was reversed on appeal because he was denied a full investigation and hearing before the juvenile court waived his case to adult court. His counsel also was denied continuances to prepare for a waiver hearing just days after Gingerich was charged. The Indiana Supreme Court declined to review the Court of Appeals decision.
Gingerich was convicted along with then-15-year-old Colt Lundy for his role in the shooting death of Lundy’s stepfather, Phillip Danner, in his home in Cromwell. Lundy had orchestrated a plan in which Gingerich and another 12-year-old boy would take Danner’s car and go to Arizona, where Lundy’s biological father lived.
Lundy signaled Gingerich to come inside the home then supplied him with a handgun, but Gingerich said he entered the house with the intention of talking the older boy out of going through with his plan to kill his stepfather.
In the deal signed by Gingerich, defense attorney Monica Foster and Kosciusko Prosecutor Daniel Hampton, Gingerich pleads guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit murder as a Class A felony and the state drops charges of murder and aiding, inducing and causing murder.
“We have progressed a long way from where we started and think this was a just result,” Foster said. “It was a tragic, terrible crime that occurred, but the prosecutor’s office, to their credit, was willing to look at all the facts.”
Those facts include the influence Lundy exerted over Gingerich, she said. “I’m not sure the older boy intended to intimidate him, it was just the nature of the relationship.”
The plea includes the same conviction and sentence imposed in adult court – 30 years with five suspended, plus credit for time served – but it sets a review hearing after Gingerich’s 18th birthday at which time the sentence may be suspended and a judge may order his release.
“The level necessary to restrict defendant’s freedom will be directly correlated to his successfulness in completing assigned rehabilitative programs and adherence to the rules and regulations of the program, the facility, and of society,” the plea agreement says.
A proposed transitional plan for Gingerich indicates he “is currently working towards his Academic Honors Diploma at Pendleton Juvenile.” He may enroll in college courses upon completion of his diploma, at which time he also may be considered for referral to a community residential group home, according to the plan. Both of those could happen by next summer, Foster said.
“He’s really been an extraordinary student at the Pendleton Juvenile Facility,” Foster said. “He’s been sort of a leader with the other students in helping them to do the right thing.”
Gingerich has also had the benefit of twice-weekly visits from his mother, Nicole, and frequent visits from his father, Paul, Foster said.
Foster said Gingerich’s formal sentencing is expected to take place in January.
Gingerich is believed to be the youngest offender ever sentenced as an adult in Indiana, and his case rallied opponents of tough sentencing for juveniles. Indiana Code 31-30-3-4, passed in 1997, allows children as young as 10 to be waived to adult court.
Karen Grau, president and executive producer of Indianapolis-based filmmakers Calimari Productions, said a new documentary on the Gingerich case is scheduled to air on the Lifetime Network soon, now that the case has been tentatively resolved. She said an airdate likely will be decided this week.
Grau also was involved in an earlier documentary focused on Gingerich and Lundy called “Young Kids, Hard Time” that aired on MSNBC.
Like Gingerich, Lundy also was sentenced to 30 years with five suspended for his conviction of conspiracy to commit murder. Lundy is held at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. His projected release date is in 2022, according to the Department of Correction.