PERU, Ind. — When Kegan Kline enters a Miami County courtroom Thursday morning to plead guilty to 25 counts of child pornography, child solicitation, identity deception and obstruction of justice, he will need to sign a plea agreement laying out the expectations he shares with the State in admitting his guilt to forego a trial.
Non-lawyers often refer to such an agreement as a ‘”plea bargain,” but from the limited information available on Kline’s case, it doesn’t appear there was any bargaining at all.
”Some of the charges may be reduced or dismissed,” observed former Johnson County Prosecutor Joe Villanueva. “You sometimes have a lot more control of your own fate in the plea agreements than you would if you’re just going to a jury trial.”
The Miami County Prosecutor, in a motion filed late last week, is making it clear to Circuit Judge Timothy Sparr that Kline is being shown no leniency in pleading guilty to every charge leveled against him with no counts dismissed for the sake of criminal justice expediency.
”In the larger counties such as Marion County, Hamilton County and some of the surrounding counties, if the State of Indiana has you dead to rights on the lead charge, they will offer as a bone an opportunity to dismiss the other counts so you’re only pleading to the lead charge. Now, some of the smaller counties will require you to plead to all the charges,” said Mario Massillamany, a Hamilton County defense attorney who formerly served as a deputy prosecutor in Marion County.
”So in the smaller counties when you to plead to all the counts, as long as its concurrent, you’ll tell your client, ‘Lets move on from this case and having it drag on because your penalty is not gonna be any worse. They’re just wanting to save face in the public by having you plead to all the counts.’”
The most serious counts Kline faces are Level 5 felonies punishable by one to six years in prison with a presumptive sentence of three years.
Kline has been in jail since August of 2020 pending trial and could find himself sentenced to time served should the judge decide that all 25 sentences would be served concurrently, as opposed to consecutively.
”There could be an agreement that he can receive no more than X number of years to the Department of Correction,” said Defense Attorney John Tompkins. ”The stronger their case, the less leverage you have in terms of negotiation and so sometimes getting a set number of years that is at the low end of the range is in your client’s best interest.”
At this point, there is no indication prosecutors will require Kline to cooperate in any future investigation such as the Delphi case where detectives have indicated he had social media contact with Libby German the night before she was killed near the Monon High Bridge along with her friend Abby Williams in 2017.
Villanueva said attorneys representing Richard Allen, the Delphi resident accused of the killings, could turn any sort of Kline agreement with prosecutors against the Peru man should he take the witness stand.
”We’re talking about the Delphi case. If this individual were called as a potential witness there, if that kind of language was in Miami County plea agreement, the Defense is going to obviously bring that out to the eyes of the jury. One of the things you’re going to be thinking about is the credibility of any witness you’re going to be bringing for your case,” said Villanueva. ”The defense attorney would clearly say, ‘Hey, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this guy’s testimony is bought and paid for. You would have part of the plea agreement that he would testify truthfully, so, you really need to disregard what he’s saying.’
”In dealing with a case of the magnitude of the Delphi murders, the prosecutor’s gonna want to do everything he can to make sure that you don’t give the defense any potential arguments or things to talk about with the jury.”
Tompkins said a Kline guilty plea on the charges he faces would almost assure that all the evidence investigators have uncovered will never be known publicly and, perhaps, that goes for his potential connection to the Delphi case, too.
”They eliminate or place greater control on the amount of information that is released to the public about the case.”
Its possible that the Miami County prosecutor will lay out more details of the plea agreement during Kline’s Change of Plea hearing which could include any understanding of a sentencing recommendation.
”On Thursday that will be included,” said Massillamany. “You will see that in writing in the guilty plea that the defendant signs and also there will be information regarding him having to register as a sex offender in that guilty plea also.”