FARMINGTON — A West Point welder originally faced up to life in prison for shooting and killing a man who had slashed his face with a razor during a night of drinking in 2017.
Now he will serve just five years at most.
A jury in September convicted Robin William "RJ" Lundin, 30, of a lesser offense than the murder charge he first faced in the death of Colby Scott Barney. On Wednesday, a judge lightened the possible penalty even more.
According to family members, Lundin is a hard worker and a good father to his toddler, described by one supporter as a "giver, not a taker," said 2nd District Judge David Hamilton.
However, "in this case, he was a taker" by claiming the 30-year-old Barney's life, Hamilton said, "which demands a severe sanction." Lundin also has a prior DUI on his record, the judge noted, but no more severe criminal history.
Lundin's defense attorney, Randall Richards, said "this is a unique case" in his 35-year career, because he has never seen a defendant as badly injured as Lundin, whose doctor had to get a special tool to grind the bone down and remove a piece of blade from his face.
"A life was taken here, but it was taken by a guy that had been stabbed in the head," Richards said. "He's a good fellow. This was a bad night."
He sought jail time and probation for his client, instead of prison, arguing the death was a one-time occurrence and Lundin's record of DUI, intoxication and traffic tickets show he is not a career criminal.
Wearing an orange striped jumpsuit on Wednesday, Lundin apologized to Barney's family in a brief statement.
"Understand that I never wanted to do this. Like my attorney said, I'll live with this for the rest of my life," he said. After his sentence was read, he turned toward his family and mouthed, "I love you guys."
Investigators reported that Lundin told them a group of people were playing drinking games at his house that night and at one point began drinking heavily, court documents state.
Prosecutor Benjamin Willoughby, however, said Lundin has not been honest about what he did and called his version of events "self-serving." He argued for prison time.
Willoughby pointed to a medical examiner's testimony that Barney's head had been slammed into sheet rock before he was shot. What's more, Lundin described Barney to authorities as a business acquaintance, but in reality, they were friends, Willoughby said.
The prosecutor also revisited witness testimony that Barney had surrendered and said "please don't shoot me, RJ."
On Nov. 5, 2017, Davis County sheriff's deputies arrived at Lundin's home at 3275 W. 438 North in West Point to find the body of Barney, who had been shot in the chest, court documents state. After Lundin was cut, Barney began to surrender, holding his hands out, prosecutors argued. Lundin then left and returned with a handgun. He fired twice, striking Barney and injuring the finger of his own wife, the state said Wednesday.
Lundin has to live with the burden of having killed a man and feels badly about it, Richards said, but he also has a 1 1/2-year-old child and a job waiting for him.
After the hearing, Lundin's wife, Amber Conklin, showed a scar where the bullet had grazed her finger.
"He's a good person and he was just trying to do the right thing and protect us," she said.
The judge reduced Lundin's conviction of manslaughter from a second-degree felony to a third-degree felony under a doctrine allowing judges to drop the severity of the crime by one level, Richards said. In doing so, he shaved up to a possible decade or more from Lundin's time in prison. He ordered Lundin to up to five years in prison, giving him credit for time he has spent in the Davis County Jail.
"Everything about this circumstance is tragic," Hamilton said. "But the reality is that a life was lost."