Received minimum sentence on most serious remaining charge, will get 2.5 years credit for time already served
Robert Keegan was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison for the Nov. 23, 2020, killing of 19-year-old Aidan Ellison at the Stratford Inn in Ashland.
Judge Timothy Barnack sentenced Keegan to 10 years for first-degree manslaughter, one year for unlawful possession of a firearm, and one year for reckless endangering.
The sentences will run consecutively, one after the other.
Keegan was also sentenced to five years of post-prison supervision.
Keegan, 50, will receive credit for the two-and-a-half years he has already spent in Jackson County Jail awaiting trial. That means he will spend 7.5 years in state prison on the manslaughter conviction, then be transferred back to the Jackson County Jail to serve two years on the lesser convictions, for a total of 9.5 more years in a cell.
Keegan, who used a wheelchair during the trial, stood Friday when Barnack asked whether he had anything he wanted to say before sentencing.
“There’s nothing more that I can say, but I’m sorry,” said Keegan, as he stood between his defense attorneys, Alyssa Bartholomew and Clint Oborn.
Before he handed down the sentence, Barnack made a few remarks — the first being that he pledged to follow the law according to Measure 11, the ballot initiative approved by voters that outlines mandatory minimum sentences for significant offenses.
Barnack also noted his courtroom was full of people, adding it would have been “a good education” for them to follow the trial.
“To learn more about how trials work, you have to watch,” Barnack said.
“There’s so much anger out there now,” Barnack said. “I don’t know where it all came from. … We should all try to listen to each other, have a little bit more grace, kindness. I think that will go a long way toward alleviating a lot of this pain. You can see where anger ends up.”
Deputy District Attorney Samantha Olson confirmed to Barnack that Ellison’s family was notified of the hearing but chose not to attend. Two members of Ellison’s family, including his mother, Andrea Wofford, attended much of the trial. Wofford declined comment Monday immediately following the verdict.
After Keegan’s sentencing, prosecutors held a news conference outside Barnack’s courtroom. The prosecuting team consisted of Olson and Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Lull.
Lull said his team offered a plea deal for the murder charge, but the defense chose not to take it — contradicting Oborn’s claim to reporters earlier in the week that no plea deal had been offered.
“Oftentimes in a case, they say something doesn’t feel like a deal if it’s not a deal,” Lull said. “Murder wasn’t what they wanted.”
Asked for a response to the verdict, Lull said they respect the jury’s decision.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed, and I feel sympathy for the victim’s family — I know they were disappointed in the verdict, as well,” Lull said. “But the jury made a decision, and we have to go forth from there.”
He added that “well over” 100 exhibits were shown during trial.
“We tried the case to the hilt, to the best of our ability,” Lull said.
Friday’s sentencing capped a week-long trial that resulted in Keegan’s conviction for first-degree manslaughter in the killing of Ellison during an argument over loud music.
Keegan was acquitted of second-degree murder after 11 jurors voted to find Keegan not guilty on the murder charge, and one voted guilty.
On Friday, about a dozen people stood in front of the Jackson County Justice Building to hold signs and sound off on the trial. Their signs carried messages such as “Aidan’s life mattered,” “Aidan was only 19 years old,” and “It was murder.”
Cassie Preskenis, an Ashland resident, said she has followed the Ellison case since the teen’s mother identified him at the funeral home more than two years ago.
“I think it’s the minimum that he could have gotten, and I am very, very disappointed,” she said of Keegan’s sentence. “I think it was murder.”
She said no one on the jury represented Ellison.
“If somebody had been there to be a voice who really understood Ellison’s perspective, then the jury would have come back with a different verdict,” Preskenis said.
Preskenis noted her children went to school with Keegan’s.
“(He was) kind of stand-offish, quiet, kept to himself,” she said.
Micah Blacklight, an Ashland resident, artist and activist, was in court for the sentencing Friday.
“It was too little,” he said. “If these legal proceedings and this sentencing, if this is what we come up with as a society, then we need to utilize them to the best of our ability. I don’t feel like this person in this particular case was held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Blacklight said he doesn’t like being “glad” about prison sentences and understands Keegan has a son he will not see. But, Blacklight added, Keegan’s sentence doesn’t match his actions.
“There’s somebody out there who doesn’t have a son because of you now,” Blacklight said. “Manslaughter is someone dying at your hands — that’s what happened. You pulled a gun on purpose and you used it on purpose. You didn’t accidentally discharge your weapon.”
Blacklight said he has “incomplete” information about who Ellison was.
“From every story I’ve heard, no one has anything bad to say about Aidan,” Blacklight said. “For me, it tells a story whose life has been snuffed out too soon. The accountability aspect for that didn’t go as far as it should have, to me.”
Blacklight said the lesson of the Keegan case is “let’s learn to communicate.”
“I think that one of the things the Ashland community can learn is bias, racism and prejudice is present and does exist and is present in Ashland,” Blacklight said. “One of the things we can do to ameliorate that is to learn to communicate more and speak to the people we don’t understand. We’re coming from different places, but that doesn’t make us aliens.”
Gina DuQuenne, an Ashland City Council member who describes herself as an “activist for the Ellison family,” said the death of Ellison should serve as a charge for the community to “do better.”
“All the way around — our legal system, how we speak to each other,” DuQuenne said. “It’s time for us to look at our similarities and not our differences.”
Rally protesting second-degree murder acquittal in killing of Aidan Ellison planned for 11 a.m.
Ashland.news staff report
A rally protesting the acquittal of Robert Paul Keegan on a more serious charge and calling for the maximum time in prison possible on the three lesser charges on which he was found guilty is planned outside the Jackson County Courthouse in Medford on Friday in conjunction with his scheduled sentencing for killing Aidan Ellison in an Ashland hotel parking lot in 2020.
A jury on Monday found Keegan not guilty of second-degree murder, but guilty of first-degree manslaughter, unlawful possession of a firearm and reckless endangering of another person. Judge Timothy Barnack is due to sentence Keegan at 11 a.m. Friday.
The murder charge carries a mandatory life sentence, with the possibility of parole after 25 years. The minimum sentence for first-degree manslaughter is 10 years in prison, with a maximum of up to 20 years in prison and $375,000 in fines, according to reporting by Jefferson Public Radio. Both unlawful possession of a firearm and recklessly endangering another person are Class A misdemeanors in Oregon, so he faces a maximum possible penalty of 364 days in jail and a fine up to $6,250 for each of those charges, JPR reported.
Ellison, a 19-year-old Black teenager, was killed outside the Stratford Inn by Keegan on Nov. 23, 2020, as previously reported by Ashland.news. Keegan shot Ellison in the chest after a disagreement between the men over loud music early in the morning at the hotel.
Both men were staying there following the Almeda Fire, which destroyed more than 2,000 homes in Phoenix and Talent in September 2020. Ellison was a worker at Ashland’s Burger King, which also burned, prior to his death.
About 50 people turned out in Ashland on Wednesday to protest the jury’s decision and call for the harshest sentence possible for killing Ellison.
Keegan’s sentencing will take place at Jackson County Courthouse, 100 Oakdale Ave., in Room 305.
Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at firstname.lastname@example.org.