The second man charged with murdering Michael Hogg on New Year 2014 pleaded guilty to reduced charges Tuesday in Letcher Circuit Court.
Patrick Smith, 31, of Greasy Creek in Pike County, shuffled into the Letcher Circuit Courtroom in shackles, his hands cuffed to a belt around his waist. He was still dressed in tan scrubs from the jail, his head shaven and a long, dark beard. Several tattoos adorned his arms.
Smith was accused along with James R. Huffman IV of stabbing Hogg to death on Hayes Street in Whitesburg, wounding Stacy Phillips and Christopher Puckett, and cutting the tires of Hogg’s Jeep and attempting to break out the windows, preventing Samantha Mullins from driving Hogg to the hospital. Both had faced complicity to murder and complicity to attempted murder charges, as well as charges of criminal mischief for damage to the Jeep. Smith was also accused of cleaning the blood from the knives used in the killing, and hiding them in his boot.
Smith sat quietly and seriously as Special Letcher Circuit Judge Kent Hendrickson asked whether he understood the rights he would be giving up by pleading guilty – the right to a speedy trial by a jury, the right to hold the prosecution responsible for presenting a fair and coherent case against him, and several others. Each time, Smith, a Marine veteran, sat straight up in his chair and answered, “Yes, Your Honor.”
Asked if he had taken any kind of drugs or alcohol that would prevent him reading or understanding his agreement, Smith answered “Absolutely not, your honor.”
His demeanor was in marked contrast to Huffman’s during his trial, during which there were occasional outbursts from a member of Huffman’s family, and the defendant and his attorneys argued with the prosecutor, and with the judge.
One by one on Tuesday, Hendrickson read the amended charges to Smith.
Facilitation to commit murder. Guilty.
Three counts of criminal facilitation to attempt to commit murder. Guilty, three times.
Criminal complicity to criminal mischief in the first degree. Guilty.
Two counts of carrying a concealed deadly weapon. Guilty, two times.
Tampering with physical evidence.
Each of the charges except the concealed weapons charges are Class D felonies and carry penalties of one to five years each. The concealed weapons charges, stemming from carrying the two knives used in the murder in his boot, are misdemeanors punishable by up to 365 days in jail.
If Hendrickson chooses to sentence Smith according to the plea agreement, he will receive a sentence of 20 years in prison. The judge could choose to ignore the sentences offered by Commonwealth’s Attorney Edison Banks and sentence Smith to more or less than recommended. However, if he does sentence him to more time, Smith would have the opportunity to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial.
Thomas Griffiths, Smith’s attorney for the past four years, said after the hearing that if anyone had asked him four years ago how the case would be determined, he would have told them there would be a full trial, but in the end he thought the guilty plea was the best outcome for everyone.
“Patrick has been living with and processing what happened that night for four years. What happened that night was horrible, but Patrick did not do that. Mr. Huffman did,” Griffiths said.
Smith, he said, helped Huffman and did “what he thought was right,” but has since come to know it was not.
By pleading guilty to facilitation, Smith acknowledged that he made it possible for Huffman to commit the murder and attempt to kill Phillips, Puckett, and Mullins, but did not actually commit those crimes. By pleading guilty to complicity to criminal mischief, he admitted to helping Huffman damage the Jeep. By pleading guilty to the concealed weapons and tampering with evidence charges, he admitted to hiding the knives, and to trying to clean them.