A 35-year-old man whose actions might have riled up a group of people who later kidnapped and killed a Lakewood man pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree assault.
William R. Barry of Tacoma originally was charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping and first-degree robbery in the death of Dean Barker, 51, of Lakewood.
Prosecutors reduced the charge after determining they would have a hard time convincing a jury that Barry ultimately was responsible for Barker's death.
Superior Court Judge Kathryn Nelson sentenced Barry to 20 months in prison, which was the high end of the standard range. Second-degree assault also is considered a strike under Washington's "three strikes you're out" law.
Deputy prosecutor Jim Schacht on Tuesday called the plea bargain "a bitter pill to swallow" but wrote in court records the deal was "reasonable considering that this defendant did not directly cause the death of Mr. Barker and was not even at the scene where the killing took place."
Barker died late Sept. 7 or early Sept. 8, 2012, after a group of people confronted him in a Tacoma home and bound him before some of them drove away with him, court records said.
People in the group were angry with Barker the day he died, court records show, in part because Barry had accused him of having something to do with the temporary disappearance of Barry's young daughter.
Barry admitted in court he grabbed Barker by the neck and threw him down before leaving the room.
Barker then was beaten, robbed and tied up before others drove him to Graham, where the was strangled and dumped, court records show.
"The defendant got the ball rolling" against Barker that day and deserved the high end sentence, Schacht argued.
Defense attorney Michael Jordan argued for a low-end sentence of 18 months, saying his client did not participate in Barker's murder.
Barry then apologized, saying he didn't mean for things to go as far as they did.
Eight people in all were charged in Barker's death. Six have been convicted. Two more are pending trial.