| Crime |

Why Chayley Tolin Took Plea Deal In Controversial Police Shooting

A family photo of Chayley Tolin.
A family photo of Chayley Tolin.
Family photo

Last week, 26-year-old Chayley Tolin pleaded guilty to second-degree assault on a police officer while trying to flee from the Swedish Medical Center parking garage in a stolen car in January. The offense could earn her between eight and eleven years behind bars.

This decision may seem strange at first blush. After all, no cops were harmed, but Tolin nearly died as a result of the incident, which demonstrates why so many police departments now forbid law enforcers from shooting into a moving car unless the driver or passengers are using deadly force beyond the vehicle itself, such as a gun — and she was unarmed.

Because of the agreement, the officers' actions won't be subject to examination in court. But the explanation from John Tolin, Chayley's father, about why she took the deal rather than fight an attempted first-degree-murder beef and fourteen other allegations (eleven of them felonies), illustrates the tremendous pressure prosecutors can exert to prevent a case from going before a jury.

Simply put, Chayley was presented with a choice between a sentence that could find her serving as little as another year in jail and one that could end with her imprisoned for decades.

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"She was not going to be able to beat the stolen-vehicle charge, as well as eluding, reckless driving and others, including the DA threatening to add two more charges of assault on a peace officer if she went to trial," John notes via email. "So she was going to do time even if she beat the attempted-first-degree-murder charge."

Had Chayley been convicted of attempted murder, he goes on, "she could have gotten forty years. So the deal the DA offered was that she plead guilty to one count of assault in the second degree on a peace officer, a Class 4 felony, and all the other charges would be dropped."

A judge will determine where Chayley's actions will fall within the eight-to-eleven-years continuum. Based on her past record, which shows no violent offenses, John is hopeful she'll get eight — "and that is what she was likely to get on the stolen vehicle anyway. So rather than chance a conviction on a murder charge, this was a no-brainer decision."

Then there's the prospect of her actual time in stir being far less than the actual jolt. Chayley has been in custody since shortly after the January 16 shooting, meaning that she'll have completed nearly a year when she's sentenced on January 3, 2020. "With her time served, she will likely do another nine months to a year in prison after she is sentenced," he estimates, "and then go to a halfway house or parole."

In other words, Chayley should get a chance to put her life back together relatively soon, as opposed to risking everything to try and prove that she was merely fleeing rather than trying to hurt anyone.

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