After William Arocha JR. voluntary manslaughter conviction for stabbing Shane LaPlant more than 25 times, the court then had the decision to make whether he would walk free until his sentencing, or keep him in custody
During a detention hearing on May 17th, Arocha presented testimony through himself and his brother Anthony, stating he is not a threat to the public and has complied with all pre-trial release measures.
Court documents state he was also evaluated by 2 different psychologists who both agreed and said Arocha has a low risk of re-offending, and is not a danger to the public.
The United States argued Arocha's voluntary manslaughter conviction is a crime of violence, and he would not be eligible for release. But a district court found voluntary manslaughter is not a crime of violence in the United States v. Morrison case, stating that the definition of a violent crime is unconditionally vague.
Also, the United States argued Arocha does not have a job, no family to take care of, and has not presented compelling reasons to be released.
Court documents state Arocha has proven he is willing to comply with court orders pending his release and is subject to the same conditions previously imposed on him with pre-trial release.
Judge John Johnston has ruled William Arocha Jr. to be released from custody. He and will live with his brother, Anthony Arocha until his sentencing in September.
UPDATE: Outside of the courthouse Shane LaPlant's widow Jo Ann LaPlant sobbed "He's just another dead Indian that's all he is to them," said Jo Ann.
After nearly a year Shane LaPlant's family finally got some closure. But not in the manner they had hoped for.
William Arocha Junior was accused of stabbing Shane 26 times. The trial itself lasted just under two days, and it took a total of three hours for the jury to find William Arocha Junior guilty but not for second-degree murder.
"I'm disappointed I mean I realize that we still got our guilty verdict which is what we were looking for but I wanted it to go different, "said Jo Ann.
He was found guilty of Voluntary Manslaughter and faces a max of 10 years in prison.
But for Jo Ann, she said that is not enough time.
"I felt like my husband's life was worth more. I know it was," said Jo Ann.
As the verdict was read three people including the victim's father left the court screaming angrily.
Outside Jo Ann could be heard crying.
"My baby that M********* don't got no laws. He don't got no kids," said Jo Ann.
Tensions have run high between both family's since the incident last July and Wednesday to ensure the peace was kept, there was
Great Falls Police and Homeland Security officers standing by.
Until Wednesday Arocha had not seen the inside of a jail cell. He will remain in custody at least until his detention hearing on May 17th. That is when Judge Brian Morris will decide if Arocha will remain in custody until his sentencing September 6.
As for the LaPlant family, Joann said she does not know how they will move forward from here.
"We will never be the same my babies have the rest of their lives to live with out their dad the one thing they want I can never give them," said Jo Ann.
UPDATE: William Arocha Junior was found not guilty of second-degree murder. However, jurors did find him guilty of voluntary manslaughter.
The trial lasted just over two days and it took jurors less than 5 hours to come to a verdict. Voluntary manslaughter can carry a sentence of no more than 10 years, fines or both.
He'll remain in custody until his detention hearing on May 17. At that point, the court will decide if he is to remain in custody until his sentencing in September.
Once his federal sentence is complete, Arocha Jr. will have to serve his sentence from tribal court. It consists of 1 year and 9 months in jail.
It Is a case we have been following for nearly a year. Shane LaPlant was stabbed nearly 30 times and his accused killer, 21 year old William Arocha, Jr. made his appearance in federal court to face second degree murder charges.
Judge Brian Morris gave the jury until 5:30pm Tuesday afternoon to come back with a verdict. So far they were not able to reach one. That means they will have to go back into deliberations at 8:30 Wednesday morning .
Before the jury left to deliberate, Arocha took the stand in his defense, claiming he did not recall a lot and that he was scared of Shane during the fight because Shane was bigger than him.
His statement on the stand does contradict what he told BIA officers just 8 hours after the incident. Court documents state Arocha was in control of his actions and continued to stab Shane.
As far as his sentence is concerned, the maximum for second degree murder charge is life in prison.
Shane's father Kelly LaPlant spoke with KFBB and said it is a no-win situation for either of the families involved.
UPDATE: William Arocha Jr's trial began today as jury selection and opening remarks were made.
Back in July 2017, Shane LaPlant was stabbed to death after a fight broke out over alcohol at a wedding in East Glacier. Arocha is the suspect in the case and was arrested by tribal officers.
A federal brief states the fight started out as a fistfight on the lawn between Arocha's father, brother, and Shane. It quickly moved onto the street and that's when Arocha stabbed Shane in the torso. Shane was able to run off but Arocha eventually tackled him and stabbed him a further 25 times.
"He had defensive wounds on his hands, and I was there when he passed away, and I prayed with my husband," said Jo Ann LaPlant, Shane's wife.
As the weeks went on, no one was in custody for Shane's murder and it ended up taking a toll on the family.
Jo Ann went as far to say, "You can go to jail for killing someone and get out the next day and that's what happened to Shane's killer. He's out of jail. There's no justice in that."
Arocha was eventually arrested and in October the first of his 2 court dates began with a trial in Tribal Courts. He was found guilty of assault and negligence.
His sentence, in that case, was to pay $6,000 fine, serve 1 year and 9 months in jail and pay restitution to the LaPlant family for the next 30 years.
Now he has to face charges of second-degree murder in federal court. Eighteen witnesses are expected to be called and the trial is said to last about 3-5 days. If convicted Arocha could face up to life in prison.
Update: US Attorney Public Relations Officer Keri Leggett says Arocha's Federal trial has been reset for March 12th and will be out on conditions until then.
William Arocha Jr has been sentenced to the max allowed by the Tribal court after he was found guilty of assault c and negligent endangerment.
Arocha sentence is as follows: $6,000 fines and a total of 1 year and 9 months in prison. He’ll serve that time after his federal trial is complete.
The former Rocky Boy detention center officer faces second-degree murder charges after he was accused of stabbing Shane LaPlant to death in East Glacier this past July. His trial for those federal charges is expected to start in December.
KFBB was informed just moments after the ruling from Special Tribal Prosecutor Dawn Gray. She said neither the defendant or his counsel was present Wednesday when the court moved forward with the sentencing.
Arocha was also ordered to pay restitution to be paid to the family for 31 years. Which is the amount of time from Shane LaPlant's last birthday until what would have been his retirement.
She said as a construction worker, he would have earned roughly $25,000 per year. The court ordered Arocha to pay $775,000. That is in addition to the fines he will pay from the sentence.