Republican Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced his intention to free a man serving a life sentence for aggravated robbery with a water gun.
Rolf Kaestel could potentially be eligible for parole after being sentenced to serve life in prison for robbing $264 from a Fort Smith taco shop while armed with a water pistol in 1981, The Guardian reported. He was convicted of his aggravated robbery charge in Sebastian County and resides in the Arkansas Department of Corrections in Lincoln County.
Hutchinson will make a final decision on Kaestel’s commutation after receiving public opinion on the decisions within a 30-day period, according to a Thursday press release. The inmate’s potential parole has no objections from law enforcement.
The 70-year-old convicted inmate has applied for clemency five times, writing in his most recent application that he can contribute to society in the short amount of years he has left, according to The Guardian. (RELATED: ‘Lets Focus On Real Criminals’: DeSantis Pardons COVID-19 State Penalties)
“[I] may yet have a few reasonably energetic and productive years remaining to me in which I may still make a truly substantive contribution to society,” Kaestel said. “I believe that I have demonstrated that I deserve the chance to do so, and I appeal for your consideration and favorable action to allow me to begin a new life. The ends of justice have been served with the unrelenting four decades of my incarceration to date.”
Dennis Schluterman, the taco shop employee that handed the money over to Kaestel during the incident, advocated for Kaestel’s release to former Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe in 2014 via YouTube. He said Kaestel should not have been charged for aggravated robbery since he did not threaten him.
“I didn’t notice it was an aggravated robbery charge. I don’t feel that it should’ve been aggravated robbery because he didn’t threaten me in any way, he didn’t make me feel like I was going to be hurt. I found out 25 years later that Rolf is still in prison, and I was pretty shocked about that,” Schluterman said. “It’s time for his break to come, he needs to be set free. The state owes him.”
Hutchinson announced that he intends to grant Executive Clemency to eleven Arkansas inmates, resulting in eight pardons, two commutations and one restoration of firearm rights, according to the press release.
Kaestel’s clemency hearing is scheduled to take place in September, according to KNWA & Fox 24 News.