From a posting on the AMC Hiker's Journal:
I couldn't find the article online to provide a link, but this morning's Providence Journal reports that the armed father and son team who assaulted the two Alaskan hikers on R.I.'s high point have been sentenced. They pleaded no contest and were given 12 year suspended sentences. As convicted felons, they can also no longer own or carry firearms for life.
http://www.projo.com/northwest/content/ ... 1df2e.html
Assaulting hikers yields suspended sentences
But the two men who admitted terrorizing the Alaskan adventurers are barred from owning or carrying guns again.
08:40 AM EST on Tuesday, December 2, 2003
BY NEIL SHEA
Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE -- A father and son pleaded no contest in Superior Court yesterday to assaulting a pair of hikers and holding them at gunpoint near the summit of Rhode Island's tallest hill.
William P. Kelley III, 50, of Foster, and William P. Kelley IV, 24, of Alabama, were each given suspended sentences totaling 12 years plus 12 years of probation for two counts of felony assault, use of a firearm while committing a violent crime and simple assault.
Standing before Superior Court Judge Joseph F. Rodgers Jr., the Kelleys admitted that, on a warm night in September 2002, they violently captured Robert Thompson and Melvin Stravch, both of Anchorage, Alaska, shortly after the men climbed to the top of Jerimoth Hill.
Then, with a shotgun held over their heads, the Kelleys forced the Alaskans to lie in the dirt until a police officer arrived.
Rodgers sentenced the Kelleys quickly, following a deal cut with state prosecutors in which the Kelleys agreed to plead no contest to most of the nine counts against them and the state dropped three felony assault and conspiracy charges.
The deal allowed both men to avoid the tough, state-mandated prison terms for gun violence they would have faced had they been found guilty during a trial.
Rodgers warned the Kelleys that they could still be sentenced to jail if they violate their probation.
"Gentlemen," the judge said, "I think you know the consequences of dealing with guns. Just keep that in mind in the future."
For Thompson, the sentence has been a long time coming.
Yesterday, as he helped a friend survey land in Anchorage in temperatures just a few degrees above freezing, Thompson, 40, said he was pleased.
"I feel pretty good about that I guess, for no trial," he said. "In a way, it worked out better than I thought it would."
"Legally, it's essentially the same as a guilty plea," said Michael Healey, a spokesman for the attorney general's office. "We feel it's a fair disposition ... because 12 years suspended is a pretty good long hold."
Aside from the suspended sentences and probation, Healey said the Kelleys are now considered convicted felons, and it's illegal for them ever to own or carry firearms.
That seemed to ease Thompson, who said he would have returned to Rhode Island as a witness against the Kelleys had the case gone to trial.
"They can never own guns again for the rest of their lives," he said. "I think that's just fine."
Back in 2002, Thompson and Stravch had been on a trip through the Northeast climbing the tallest peaks of several states. On Sept. 29, the pair rolled into Rhode Island planning to reach the summit of the 812-foot Jerimoth Hill, just off Route 101 in Foster.
At about 10:30 p.m., the two said, they parked their car on the side of the road near the driveway of William Kelley III.
Brown University has owned the five-acre summit of the hill since 1953 and uses it as a natural classroom for astronomical observation. But the property around Brown's perch is privately owned, and hikers may only access it a handful of times each year.
Thompson and Stravch reached the summit -- it's not clear what path they took -- and headed back to their car. The Kelleys were waiting for them, Thompson said.
Thompson and Stravch alleged that both Kelleys were armed, one with a shotgun, the other with a rifle. The Kelleys pointed the guns at the pair and ordered them onto their property where they forced them to lie face down on a dirt driveway, Thompson said.
Thompson said that one of the Kelleys hit and kicked Stravch and smashed his head with a gun butt. At some point, Thompson said one of the men fired a shot over their heads.
William Kelley III, a truck driver, said he had been worried the men were trespassers or thieves. So he and his son, William P. Kelley IV, who lived in Foster at the time, searched for them.
The men discovered the Alaskans' car, looked inside and saw beer bottles, Kelley said. Then, about 45 minutes later, Kelley said he found Thompson and Stravch trespassing near his daughter's car.
He told them they couldn't leave because the police were on their way. But the pair ignored him, Kelley said.
"They got kinda pushy and so my son and I wrestled them to ground and kept them there," he said.
Kelley said he and his son never assaulted the men. Kelley said he did have a shotgun, but he insisted he never pointed it at Thompson and Stravch, never fired it over their heads. He said his son never had a gun.
When the Foster police arrived, they confiscated Kelley's shotgun and released the Alaskans.
Yesterday, Kelley's lawyer, Paul DiMaio, said his clients pleaded no contest to avoid the possibility of jail time.
"It's an interesting case," DiMaio said. "They are both good people. Our defense would have been that they had a right to do that, to make a citizen's arrest."