BLUE EARTH - Brian Daniel Freeman could have spent the rest of his life in prison, but the deal he accepted this week gives him a definitive end date, says his attorney, Scott Cutcher, chief public defender for the Fifth District.
"If he would have gone to trial and was found guilty of first-degree murder, he dies in prison," Cutcher said. "This way, there's a definite out date."
Freeman, 30, of Ceylon, faced 11 counts related to a home invasion in Blue Earth Feb. 20 but agreed to plead guilty to four, said Cutcher, including one count of second-degree murder in the death of Christopher Fulmer, 37, of Blue Earth, and three counts of first-degree assault in the attacks on Freeman's wife, Candice, and her two teena daughters. He is accused of causing head injuries to all four with a hammer.
The other charges were dismissed, Cutcher said.
Freeman will be formally sentenced March 11.
He received 336 months for the second-degree murder charge, said Troy Timmerman, prosecuting attorney for Faribault County, and 86 months each for the three first-degree assault charges for a total of 49 years. Freeman will serve the time consecutively.
With good behavior and credit for the year he has already served, Freeman could be out in 32 years, Cutcher said.
"He was OK with it," Cutcher said of Freeman. "We came to an agreement that everyone could live with."
Cutcher, who was planning to mount a "heat of passion" defense when the case went to trial in late March, said it was difficult to get a read on how it could have gone for his client.
"Had we won with the heat of passion, he still goes to prison," he said. "A victory would be 15 to 20 years in prison."
But he knows it might have gone the other way for Freeman.
"The biggest problem from the defense perspective was the two step-daughters struck with the hammer. That would have been difficult with the jury," Cutcher acknowledged.
Timmerman said everyone working on the case did an "excellent job," but he knew going to trial was taking a chance.
"If he had not been found guilty of murder in the first, he could have gotten less [than he did]," Timmerman said. "This deal gives him a guaranteed out date and we're certain he'll serve 33 years."
Timmerman said he has been asked about the deal being a "plea bargain," but said, "This is more of a case of a settlement."
Timmerman said the victims and their families were consulted about the deal.
"They were all on board with it," he said. "Pretty much everyone agreed this would be a good resolution: satisfy the victims, have Mr. Freeman incarcerated for 33 years, public is protected, and law enforcement is happy."