Newstrack: Plea agreement in Ced-Rel Motel killing results in 'a hard 35' years

Attorneys preparing victims for long trial, 'and then all of a sudden this happened'

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CEDAR RAPIDS — In the early morning hours of Nov. 16, 2015, the Linn County Sheriff’s Office responded to the Ced-Rel Motel, 11901 16th Ave. SW, after a report of a stabbing. In Room 21, deputies found 23-year-old Jimmi-Jon Lee Lint, an occupant of the motel, suffering from multiple stab wounds. Lint later died from those injuries.

Another resident of the motel, 48-year-old Michael S. Lehman, was taken to a hospital to be treated for minor injuries and then was arrested on a charge of first-degree murder in connection with Lint’s death.

What’s happened since

In an unusual move, Lehman agreed to a plea deal that essentially resulted in a life sentence, despite a lower offense.

According to court records, Lehman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in January 2016 and was sentenced on Feb. 19.

“Murder two carries with it a 50-year prison sentence with a mandatory minimum of 35 years, and that’s a hard 35,” Assistant Linn County Attorney Jason Besler said. “He was 48 when he committed the crime. It kind of operates functionally as a life sentence anyway.”

Besler said evidence presented during the trial would have shown Lehman and Lint “exchanged words” before the fatal encounter. Lehman then went to his room, retrieved a knife and returned to Lint’s room.

There was an altercation and Lint was stabbed to death, Besler said.

Lehman admitted he had been drinking at the time of the stabbing, Besler said.

Besler said it’s rare that anyone pleads guilty to second-degree murder, and even then it comes after a lengthy court process, not one lasting only a few months. But Besler said Lehman demanded a speedy trial to get the matter resolved.

“The guy did seem legitimately remorseful and understood he needed to be punished,” Besler said. “He even acknowledged that he doesn’t expect to get out of prison.”

The plea agreement was made in consultation with Lint’s siblings, including his brother, who witnessed the crime. Besler said Lint’s sister seemed to gain some closure from Lehman’s comments.

“The brother was still understandably not at a point yet where he was ready to forgive,” Besler said.

Besler said the county attorney’s office was satisfied with the outcome of the case, noting it accomplished their goals of holding Lehman accountable, protecting the community and giving the victims closure — much faster than he had anticipated.

“I prepared them for years (of court proceedings), and then all of the sudden this happened,” he said.

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