Ragland to fight wrongful death suit after guilty plea

By Alice Haymond

Shane Ragland pleaded guilty in August to second-degree manslaughter for the death of former UK football player Trent DiGiuro and is now defending himself in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by DiGiuro’s family, according to a court document filed Monday.

DiGiuro, a former offensive lineman, died from a gunshot to the head on July 17, 1994, while celebrating his birthday on the front porch of his Woodland Avenue home.

The DiGiuro family resumed a civil suit for damages against Ragland after the end of the criminal case. They submitted a motion for summary judgment on Sept. 26, requesting that the case be decided in their favor without going to a jury.

Their lawyer, Thomas Conway, said he had not expected Ragland to challenge the wrongful-death suit because he had admitted guilt, and that didn’t need to be re-established.

Because of the plea, Conway said Ragland’s liability for DiGiuro’s death was already proven and Ragland had no solid argument to defend himself.

After the plea deal in August, Ragland’s lawyer, Steve Romines, told the Kernel that Ragland would probably not fight the suit because liabilities established by admitting guilt in the criminal case would be difficult to defend.

But Romines stated Monday in his response to the DiGiuros’ suit that the guilty plea did not establish liability.

The consequences of going to trial played a role in Ragland’s decision to plead guilty, Romines said, and did not necessarily prove his guilt.

“If found guilty, he faced a potential life sentence in the penitentiary,” Romines said in the document. “If found not guilty, he still faced a life sentence as a perceived spoiled rich kid who could buy justice with his father’s money.”

“It simply defies common sense to say that any person in Ragland’s position would handle the situation in a different manner whether factually guilty or not,” the document said.

Ragland was convicted of DiGiuro’s murder in 2002 and sentenced to 30 years in prison. But the conviction was overturned in 2004 when the State Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors misspoke in closing arguments.

The Supreme Court overturned the conviction again in March 2006 and ordered a new trial after research indicated that bullet lead tests that connected Ragland to the crime in the original trial were unreliable.

In exchange for the plea, prosecutors recommended Ragland serve an eight-year sentence. Ragland received credit for more than four and a half years served in prison as well as 14 months of home incarceration while he was out of prison on bond. He finished his sentence Aug. 30.