In a tersely worded opinion, a Fayette judge refused Wednesday to throw out a record $60 million in punitive damages against Shane Ragland in the sniper-style shooting death of a University of Kentucky football player in 1994.
"This court ... can find no greater act of reprehensibility than the premeditated, senseless killing of a young man about to enter the prime of his life, particularly in light of the purported motive," Circuit Judge Thomas Clark wrote. "To lie in wait, in the dark of night, and assassinate a person for purportedly being blackballed from a fraternity years earlier, the court can find no greater reprehensible conduct."
Ragland admitted to fatally shooting Trent DiGiuro in front of a Woodland Avenue rental house while DiGiuro was celebrating his upcoming 21st birthday. Prosecutors have said Ragland was angry because he wrongly thought DiGiuro had prevented him from getting into the fraternity.
DiGiuro's family sued Ragland, and in August a jury awarded the family $63.3 million, including $3.3 million in lost wages.
The amount awarded, if it stands, will be the largest ever to come out of Fayette County and the second-largest ever in Kentucky.
Ragland and his attorneys did not attend the civil trial, but filed a motion in September asking for the verdict to be tossed out and requesting a new trial. They claimed the verdict was excessive, despite their earlier offer to settle the case for $50 million.
Clark overruled that motion in an order that became public Wednesday. His order represented the strongest public statements he has made in the eight years he has presided over the criminal and civil cases.
"It sums up the way I feel," said Trent DiGiuro's father, Mike.
It was not clear Wednesday whether Ragland would appeal the ruling. His attorney, David Broderick of Bowling Green, and father did not immediately return phone messages.
The DiGiuro family's attorney, David Pratt of Lexington, said Ragland would be required to post bond on the $63.3 million verdict.
Ragland's attorneys have repeatedly claimed that he does not have any assets, so an appeal might be prohibitively expensive for him, Pratt said.
Ragland has 30 days to file a notice of appeal. After that window, the DiGiuros can begin trying to collect the damages.
The family will have the right to attach liens to property, subpoena financial records and force Ragland and others — including, potentially, his wealthy father, Jerry — to testify.
Mike DiGiuro said he doesn't care whether the family ever collects anything. He just wants to make sure Ragland doesn't live a life of luxury.
"Our goal is to keep him from having money," said DiGiuro, a resident of Goshen. "I don't necessarily need it; I just don't want him to have it."
The family will try to collect for the rest of Ragland's life.
"I am going to make sure he never has a day of leisure in his life," DiGiuro said.
Under Kentucky law, the judgment will balloon at a rate of 12 percent a year until Ragland pays it off, Pratt said. In the first year, that would be an additional $7.5 million in interest owed to the DiGiuros.
Ragland accepted a plea deal in 2007 and pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter. His sentence was for time served plus an additional three days of home incarceration.
Ragland, who was arrested in 2000, was convicted of murdering Trent DiGiuro in 2002, but the Kentucky Supreme Court overturned the verdict in 2006.