Although he had filed a motion to withdraw his plea in a February kidnapping and robbery in Ellis County, a Wilson man changed his mind and was sentenced Friday to almost six years in prison.
With good time credit and time served in the Ellis County Jail, Tanner Cullens, 20, could be out of prison in about four years, however.
Cullens’ clean criminal record until now, plus his cooperation with law enforcement, was brought up several times during his sentencing Friday morning in Ellis County District Court.
In June, Cullens agreed to the plea in exchange for giving sworn testimony against his co-defendant and stepfather, Jeremy Schulmeister, 36. In July, Cullens filed handwritten motions to withdraw his plea on grounds of ineffective counsel and to dismiss his original attorney. But after conferring with his new attorney, Alex Herrman, Cullens requested Friday to withdraw his motion to withdraw the plea and proceed with the original plea bargain.
It was Cullens' cooperation, Chief Judge Glenn Braun said, that led to Schulmeister entering a plea and avoiding the cost of a trial to the county and the victim.
“The real benefit is that the victim didn’t have to go through the trial and face the trauma he still suffers from,” Braun said.
The victim, a 20-year-old acquaintance of Cullens, testified in the preliminary hearings he was walking from a friend’s house near the Fort Hays State University campus to Cunningham Hall on campus when Cullens pulled up alongside him and offered him a ride.
Instead, the man said, Cullens drove south of town on 240th Avenue about 2 miles, then onto a county road. Another man emerged from the trunk of the car into the back seat and held a gun to the man’s head, he said.
The man said Cullens also held a gun on him while he drove and demanded the man hand over $1,800 in cash he was carrying, his iPhone, hat, hoodie and shoes.
The man testified Cullens showed him a picture on his phone of a body in a tub of acid and threatened to kill him and his family.
The man was then ordered out of the car, and he jumped while the vehicle was traveling at about 30 mph.
The victim then ran almost 2 miles back to 240th Avenue and about another mile toward Hays before a passing driver picked him up. He was wearing only a T-shirt, sweat pants and socks in 10-degree temperatures.
Braun also said Cullens didn't have the same degree of responsibility for the crime as his co-defendant.
"While he has culpability and responsibility, it's not the same level as Mr. Schulmeister," Braun said.
Cullens was sentenced to concurrent terms of 59 months in prison for a charge of aggravated robbery and 18 months for aggravated intimidation of a witness. A 12-month sentence for aggravated battery will be served consecutive to the robbery sentence, giving him 71 months total in prison. He will be on post-release supervision for 36 months.
He will receive 211 days credit for time served in the Ellis County Jail, and could receive further credit for good behavior — 15% for the robbery charge and 20% on the battery charge.
He was ordered to pay $255 restitution to the victim, which will be paid jointly with Schulmeister.
Schulmeister was sentenced in August to 114 months for aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping, plus a consecutive 21 months for aggravated battery for beating up another inmate in the jail, giving him just over 11 years in prison. He is currently in the El Dorado Correctional Facility.
Braun agreed with a request from Cullens’ attorney, Alex Herrman, to ask that the Kansas Department of Corrections place Cullens in a different facility.