A Prince George's County judge has sharply reduced the sentence of Stephen Troese, one of six persons convicted in the contract murder of Michael Hoffmann, from life in prison to 25 years.
Under the new sentence ordered last Wednesday by Circuit Court Judge Jacob S. Levin, Troese will be eligible for parole in four to five years. Under the original life sentence, Troese, the 18-year-old son of a prominent county lawyer, would have had to serve a minimum of 15 years before he could be paroled.
Four of the five others convicted in the murder case also have petitioned for a review of their sentences, but Troese's request was the first considered by Levin.
According to Assistant State's Attorney Michael P. Whalen, Judge Levin, who presided at the trial and imposed the sentences, felt that Troese's sentence was unduly harsh in comparison with others imposed in last December's slaying.
The judge "also felt that the Troese family deserved some consideration," said Whalen, who prosecuted the case. "The third reason he gave was that it was the 'season of forgiveness,' " Whalen added.
Judge Levin was reported on vacation and could not be reached for comment.
Whalen disagreed with the contention that Troese deserved a lesser sentence.
"He provided the weapon, solicited the person to commit the murder and controlled the plan. He was the catalyst that kept all the people together to commit the murder,' " Whalen said.
According to court testimony, George Harvey, a 20-year-old tenant farmer on Troese's father's Aquasco farm, shot 20-year-old Michael Hoffmann to death a year ago on a lonely country road as Hoffmann's wife Donna, Troese and three other men watched. Hoffmann's body was found in Black Swamp Creek in Aquasco the next day.
Harvey pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and received a life sentence last July. Troese and Donna Hoffmann, 18, were convicted of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder and also received life sentences. John Penkert, 25, Mrs. Hoffmann's boyfriend, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and received a suspended life sentence with 40 years to serve. Michael Naquin, 21, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and received a 10-year sentence.
Jeffrey Scott Whittaker, 18, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy and received a 50-year suspended sentence with 15 years to serve. Whalen said prosecutors requested a lesser sentence for Whittaker because he cooperated with the police investigation. He is the only defendant who has not asked the court to review his sentence.
Whalen said hearing dates have not been set for the other defendants' motions for sentence review.