LITTLE ROCK A Little Rock man accused of fatally running over and beating a teenage boy after the youth stole his wallet outside a Little Rock convenience store was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison Wednesday afternoon.
The jury's decision took less than an hour.
Michael Sadler was arrested May 3 on a first-degree murder charge after the incident near Asher Avenue and South Maple Street that left 14-year-old Michael Stanley Jr. dead.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sean Strode described in his opening statement how Sadler chased down the teen with a van, ultimately hitting the boy's bicycle before getting out and beating him until a code enforcement officer intervened. He acknowledged that the jury of eight women and four men would hear how the chase began after Stanley took Sadler's wallet.
"No amount of theft can justify the violence of homicide that occurred," Strode said, noting a medical examiner would testify the assault burst Stanley's liver and sent one his ribs into one of his lungs. "... Michael Sadler put a value on this boy's life, and he took the law into his hands."
Strode said there was "no excuse" for Stanley's move to take the wallet, which had nearly $1,300 in it, after Sadler showed it to him and asked for the boy's help in locating a missing gun.
But, he said, it shouldn't have touched off a deadly attack or "vigilante justice."
"We live in a society of laws, and nobody lives above the law," Strode said. "Certainly not the defendant, but on that day he decided he did."
Defense attorney David Cannon countered in his brief opening statement that the jury should find Sadler guilty, but of manslaughter rather than first-degree murder.
He took issue with Strode's contention that Sadler put a price on Stanley's life.
"He didn't," Cannon said. "Michael Stanley put a price on Michael Stanley's life. He was 14 years old and out committing a robbery. But we're not saying the ends justify the means. My client is guilty of something."
The code enforcement officer who intervened also testified Wednesday, the first day of the trial before Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herb Wright. The officer, Paris Wilhelm, said he was in the area with a co-worker when he spotted an agitated Sadler, believing initially that he was dumping trash in the area.
When he got closer, Wilhelm realized Sadler was beating an injured boy and yelling "where's my money," he testified.
Wilhelm said he yelled for Sadler to stop, which he did.
"I was just trying to break up the violence," Wilhelm said, describing how he checked for a pulse and then waited with Stanley until medical crews arrived. "... I just talked to him and held his hand."
Stanley died of his injuries at Arkansas Children's Hospital.
Sadler will be eligible for parole in 2019.
Read more on this story in Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.