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Man serving life for water pistol robbery gets clemency nod

July 2, 2021 GMT

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said this week he intends to commute the sentence of a man who’s been serving life in prison for robbing a taco shop in 1981 with a water pistol.

Hutchinson on Thursday announced he intended to make Rolf Kaestel immediately eligible for parole. There’s a 30-day waiting period to receive public feedback before the governor’s decision can become final.

Kaestel, 70, was convicted of aggravated robbery and sentenced to life in prison after he robbed a Fort Smith taco shop of $264. Kaestel was armed only with a water pistol at the time.

This was Kaestel’s fifth request for clemency. In his latest application, he wrote that he “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.”

“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,” he wrote. “The ends of justice have been served with the unrelenting four decades of my incarceration to date.”

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Hutchinson noted there were no objections from law enforcement to Kaestel’s request for clemency.

Kaestel’s case and the sentence he’d received had received attention from criminal justice reform advocates. The taco shop employee who handed the money over to Kaestel during the robbery has also called for his release.