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Man wants guilty plea set aside in killing of Kentucky sheriff

The Associated Press

SOMERSET, Ky.- A man serving life in prison for the politically motivated killing of rural Kentucky sheriff in 2002 has asked a judge to set aside his earlier guilty plea and give him a trial.

Danny S. Shelley, 34, claimed in his motion filed Tuesday that his lawyer gave him bad advice when he pleaded guilty to killing Pulaski County Sheriff Sam Catron.

Catron was shot as he gave a campaign re-election speech during a fish fry. Shelley, caught as he tried to flee, admitted killing Catron and implicated two other men: Jeff Morris, a former deputy running against Catron, and Kenneth White, a drug dealer.

Morris also pleaded guilty in return for sentences of life without parole for at least 25 years. White was convicted at trial and sentenced to life in prison.

In his motion, Shelley said his lawyer, Mark Stanziano, had repeatedly told him he would end up on Death Row if he didn't plead guilty. A message left seeking comment from Stanziano, now a public defender in Minnesota, was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Shelley contends he would not have been subject to the death penalty because Catron was not on duty when he was killed.

Commonwealth's Attorney Eddy Montgomery said other factors made the murder eligible for the death penalty, including that the crime was committed for profit. He said he will seek the death penalty if Shelley's request for trial is granted.

Morris has said White wanted Catron out of the way so White could deal drugs without interference. Shelley has said he was addicted to drugs at the time and was manipulated into being the triggerman.

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