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."
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.