PROVO — Despite impassioned arguments from prosecutors for a prison sentence, a man who orchestrated a stabbing in American Fork was given probation Tuesday instead.
Casey Ortega, 24, was ordered to serve an additional 14 days in jail on top of the 236 he's already served, for his no-contest plea to aggravated assault, a second-degree felony.
"This whole incident would not have taken place except for him," prosecutor Sherry Ragan said Tuesday in 4th District Court. "He was the only one who had the ability to stop it. He set it up and took advantage of his relationship with this young man and tricked him into coming."
Police say Ortega and Ashley Richman picked up the victim under false pretenses on March 23, 2008, and took him to a parking lot in American Fork where Trevor Powell and Jason Ford were waiting. The group of men attacked the victim, stole his leather jacket and Powell stabbed him from his back to his chest and down his ribs, according to a police affidavit.
The bleeding victim escaped and got help from a neighbor.He has since recovered.
The attorneys previously reached a plea agreement that didn't involve prison, and allowed a charge reduction on Ortega's record after completing three years of probation.
However, on Tuesday, Ragan said she had to argue for prison, given the seriousness of the crime, and would understand if Ortega withdrew his plea and asked for a trial.
Defense attorney Mike Petro asked to continue with sentencing, emphasizing that prosecutors knew nearly all the case's details when they made the deal.
The only detail unknown at the time was that Ortega took a polygraph test, which yielded inconclusive results because he repeatedly coughed and twitched. Ragan alleges he tried to ruin the test, but Petro said his client told him it was involuntary and that Ortega offered to take another test.
Ragan also mentioned several of Ortega's false statements to police and his attempts to protect co-defendant Powell.
Petro countered by reminding the court that Powell has already been sentenced to prison on a first-degree felony of attempted aggravated murder, so any allegedly incorrect statements from Ortega didn't hurt the state's case.
Judge Steven Hansen reprimanded Ortega for his participation in a serious, violent crime, but told him the balance "tipped slightly in your favor for probation," because Ortega had successfully completed probation before.
Richman pleaded no-contest to attempted aggravated murder in July and was sentenced to 50 days in jail with credit for 50 days served and three years of probation.
Ford also pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and received a jail sentence to run concurrent with another sentence from Grand County.