Robert Paul Keegan sentenced to 12 years in prison for killing Aidan Ellison
Circuit Court Judge Timothy Barnack sentenced Keegan on Friday to the maximum possible sentence for the charges.
On Friday, Robert Paul Keegan, 50, was sentenced to 12 years in prison by Judge Timothy Barnack for killing teenager Aidan Ellison on Nov. 23, 2020.
On Monday, a jury had found Keegan guilty of first-degree manslaughter, unlawful possession of a firearm and recklessly endangering another person. He was found not guilty of second-degree murder, which would have carried a life sentence in prison.
Keegan, who is white, shot Ellison, who was Black, in the parking lot of the Stratford Inn in Ashland in 2020 after the two got in an argument about Ellison playing loud music.
When explaining his sentencing decision to a nearly full courtroom on Friday, Judge Barnack said there were far more attendees in court that day than there had been during the trial itself, which he said would have been a good education for people to understand the trial process.
“There’s so much anger out there now,” he said, encouraging everyone to use more grace and kindness and to listen to each other, which he said would help alleviate the anger.
“You can see where anger ends up, and it ends up with all of us here,” he said.
When asked whether he had anything to say before he was sentenced, Keegan said, “There’s nothing more that I can say, but I’m sorry.”
Barnack then sentenced Keegan to 10 years in prison for the first-degree manslaughter charge, one year for unlawful possession of a firearm and one year for recklessly endangering another person. The charges will be served consecutively, as well as five years of supervision after he’s released.
Keegan will serve the 10 years for the manslaughter charge in the Oregon Department of Corrections and the last two years in the Jackson County Jail, since those two charges are misdemeanors. He has already served 2.5 years in jail.
Ellison’s family was not in attendance on Friday. Keegan’s defense attorneys declined to comment.
“I think it [the sentence] was an appropriate sentence given the facts of the case,” said Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Lull, who led the prosecution against Keegan.
Protestors then gathered outside the Jackson County Justice Building in Medford to demand accountability for Ellison’s death. Many felt that justice had not been served, that Keegan should have been found guilty of the second-degree murder charge and that Ellison’s killing was racially-motivated.
The Ashland Police Department and FBI investigated the case to determine whether there was evidence of a bias crime but determined there was not.
Ellison’s killing in November 2020 came at an especially fraught time for the Rogue Valley. The Almeda Fire had recently caused widespread destruction in the valley, and the world was in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. His death also took place six months after George Floyd’s murder, which sparked global protests about racial injustice and police brutality.
Dagoberto Morales of Medford attended the protest on Friday, he said, “because the justice system [is] being very soft with white criminals against people of color. And this is why everything is becoming so unfair. The system doesn't work for everyone.”
Protestors carried signs, laid flowers on the steps of the justice building and wrote with chalk on the building and sidewalk.
Micah BlackLight of Ashland said Judge Barnack should not be surprised about the anger in the community.
“I found that to be utterly insane and extremely ignorant coming from a judge who was presiding over a murder/manslaughter trial, where a young Black life has been snuffed out early, and you're wondering why people are angry. That makes no sense to me,” he said.
“I think this was a racially-motivated murder. And I don't think the verdict recognized that,” said Alison Duren-Sutherland of White City. “Mother's Day is on Sunday, and I am really aware that Aidan's mother will not have him to celebrate that day with her.”
BlackLight said he agreed with Judge Barnack’s sentiment that people should attend trials and become more educated about the justice system.
“I feel like more of us, meaning that people who are most impacted negatively by the systems that we've put in place, need to learn as much as we can about them. We need to be here for these things. We need to be present for these things. We need to be educated on these things,” he said.