Sentencing shake-up in Woodford County homicide case leads to applause in courtroom

Posted at 7:00 PM, Apr 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-08 19:52:01-04

VERSAILLES, Ky. (LEX 18) — There was applause in a Woodford County courtroom on Wednesday when a judge rejected the 10-year sentence agreed to for a homicide case guilty plea.

Vicki Brautigan was initially indicted in 2020 on charges of murder, burglary, tampering with evidence and two counts of attempted murder in connection with the shooting death of 66-year-old David Clark. Brautigan took an Alford plea on an amended charge of manslaughter, meaning that while she did not admit guilt in the case, she recognized that there could be enough evidence to convict her.

The plea deal was a result of a mediation and agreement between Brautigan’s attorneys and prosecutors – and both parties agreed to recommend a sentence of 10 years in the case.

But during her sentencing hearing Wednesday, Judge Jeremy Mattox rejected the recommendation and sentenced Brautigan to 20 years.

“I know your father is dead, and I can’t do anything to bring him back,” Mattox said, addressing Clark’s daughter during the hearing. “Someone’s lost their life here, I cannot give her life in prison. But I don’t have to follow the ten years either. So therefore the defendant is sentenced to 20 years.”

After Mattox announced his lengthier sentence, the courtroom erupted into applause from friends and family of Clark.

Brautigan’s attorneys indicated during the hearing that they would be withdrawing her guilty plea to an amended charge of manslaughter after Mattox rejected the recommended sentence.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Sharon Muse addressed Mattox after the sentence was announced, saying that the recommended 10 years had been agreed to by both parties, and Clark’s daughter could be heard saying that the family didn’t want a trial.

“I understand that,” Mattox said. “But as the presiding judge in this, someone is dead. And someone’s life is worth more than ten years.”

Muse released the following statement on the sentencing hearing:

“A mediation was held in this case in front of a retired judge as has become common in criminal cases. The victim's family actively participated and the mediator reviewed the evidence and heard from all parties including the Versailles Police Department. After the mediation a ten year prison sentence was agreed to by the victim's family as they advised the court at the sentencing hearing. This would have guaranteed the family a ten- year term for a 66 year old defendant and saved them the trauma and uncertainty of a trial. The court has the discretion to reject any plea agreement and it did so in this case. We are proud of our commitment to justice and the rights of victims in our office. We take all available factors into consideration before extending offers of settlement and will continue to do so in the future.”

One of Clark’s friends who applauded after the new sentence was announced was David Long, who attended high school with Clark.

“I think the reason people cheered was … it wasn't to not be respectful to the court or the judge, but the fact the judge saw there was such an injustice being done and that he felt it needed to be changed as best as he could,” Long said.

The case has been an emotional one for friends and family of Clark, Long said.

“He was a fun-loving person, he enjoyed his life, loved his grandkids and he loved being around people,” Long said. “And it's a shame his life was taken.”