A Lexington man indicted for murder in 2009 pleaded guilty to lesser charges Thursday in Fayette Circuit Court.
William S. Thornton, 24, pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in the September shooting death of Michael Hanley, 19, after a confrontation at a Lexington gas station. Charges of being a persistent felony offender and a felon in possession of a handgun were dropped.
The manslaughter charge carries a recommended sentence of 10 years, Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson said Friday.
Larson said prosecutors offered a reduced sentence because "our evidence was that Hanley was the initial aggressor in this thing, and there were any number of racial slurs thrown out by Hanley to Thornton previously."
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He said Hanley had Ku Klux Klan and swastika tattoos on his body, and if that and other racial issues became part of the evidence presented to a jury during trial, it would have made a stronger self-defense case for Thornton.
Larson said that while prosecutors believed Thornton was acting in self defense to a degree, "the fact that he went to the extent that he did constituted manslaughter."
Hanley's family could not be reached for comment Friday.