A Desert Hot Springs man who had been serving a life-without-parole prison sentence for his role in the 1994 fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy but had his conviction overturned by an appeals court was released from custody after striking a deal with prosecutors prior to his retrial.
Ian Davis Hudgins, who had already served more than 10 and a half years in custody, was sentenced Friday by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Anthony Villalobos to 11 years state prison.
With the time he had already served and additional credits, he was released. Sheriff’s officials confirmed Monday he was no longer in custody.
Hudgins was convicted in 2013 of first-degree murder, along with a special circumstance allegation of lying in wait, for his role in the fatal shooting of Jahi Collins on Dec. 21, 1994. He was also convicted of attempted murder for the shooting of Collins’ friend, Bobby Wilson. The victims were shot while sitting in a car in the Desert Hot Springs’ Wardman Park. Wilson was paralyzed as a result of the shooting.
An appeals court ruled in 2017 the evidence against Hudgins was inconclusive and that a prosecutor made an improper argument during the trial, sending the case back for a retrial.
Prosecutors had been planning to retry Hudgins on charges including murder, two counts of attempted murder and voluntary manslaughter, along with several sentencing enchancements. Under the plea deal reached last week, Hudgins pleaded guilty to one count of attempted murder and voluntary manslaughter, and he admitted a street gang-related allegation.
Although released from custody, Hudgins must report to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation parole division by March 2.
According to prosecutors, Hudgins drove fellow gang members Emilio Avalos and Sergio Padilla to the park, where Avalos and Padilla shot the teens in retaliation for a previous fight.
Avalos was convicted for that shooting and for the 2001 killing of 20- year-old Marine Cpl. Henry Lozano, for which he was sentenced to death. Padilla was charged in the 1994 shooting, but was never tried, and his current whereabouts are unknown.
Hudgins contended during the trial that he only drove the men to the park, then drove them home.
In its 2017 ruling, the state appeals court found that Deputy District Attorney Pete Nolan made an improper argument by appealing to the jury’s emotions during his final closing argument, saying, “19 years … 6,735 days. That’s how long the Collins family has waited for justice,” and “We do not want six weeks of time, your time, our time, witness time, to be kicked down the road only to do this all over again.”
The ruling also found that evidence connecting Hudgins to the murder “left much room for reasonable doubt of his guilt.”