Choate rejects plea deal with 86-year prison sentence
By Ruth Ann Krause Post-Tribune correspondent July 17, 2012 4:30PM
Updated: August 19, 2012 6:26AM
A Hammond man charged with killing his 13-year-old son and burying him under a storage shed in a Black Oak section of Gary mobile home park has rejected a plea offer calling for an 86-year prison sentence.
Riley Lowell Choate, 40, who has pleaded not guilty to murder, battery, neglect of a dependent and other felony counts in the death of Christian Choate, is “less than satisfied” with the offer by prosecutors on the case, defense attorney Randy Godshalk said.
Choate’s trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 13.
The plea agreement offer called for Choate to plead guilty to battery, a Class A felony, with a 50-year sentence; admit that he is a habitual offender with two unrelated prior felony convictions, for a 30-year sentence; and plead guilty to two Class D felony charges, for a six-year sentence, said deputy prosecutor Michael Woods.
Godshalk, who filed a third motion to withdraw his representation of Choate on Tuesday, was told by Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Ross Boswell he must remain on the case.
Earlier this year, the judge approved the expenditure of public funds for Choate’s defense — such as hiring experts to testify at trial — but ruled that no public money could be used to pay Godshalk, who is a private attorney on the case.
“My main concern is Mr. Godshalk didn’t get paid all his money and he won’t fight to his full potential for me,” Choate told the judge.
Boswell said the plea offer doesn’t hinge on which attorney represents him and that it is unlikely the offer would change if Choate has a public defender appointed to represent him.
Choate’s ex-wife, Kimberly Leona Kubina, 47, pleaded guilty May 2 to neglect of a dependent in the boy’s death. The agreement, which requires her cooperation in the prosecution of Choate, calls for a sentence of 25 to 35 years in prison.
In court records, Kubina indicated that Choate began abusing the boy in January 2007. The abuse escalated to the point that the child was confined in a bathroom and then a bedroom. After he escaped, Christian was locked in a dog cage.
Christian was given meager meals, subjected to “cold water” baths and was allowed out of the cage only to use the bathroom.
The boy died April 2, 2009. Kubina and Choate buried his body under storage shed in the Colfax Mobile Home Park where the family lived.
The boy’s body was recovered in May 2011.
The murder charge is punishable by a sentence of 45 to 65 years in prison.
Choate has convictions for theft and auto theft.