Wrongly convicted: Three Spokane men free after 5 years in jail




Posted on August 2, 2013 at 5:39 PM

Updated Friday, Aug 2 at 7:28 PM

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Three Spokane men are free after serving five years in jail for crimes they say they did not commit.

Paul Statler, Robert Larson and Tyler Gassman were all convicted of robbery, assault and a drive-by shooting in 2008. They were sentenced to a combined 88 years in prison.

The men were accused of a drug related armed robbery back in April 2008.                 

In early 2013, the charges against all of them were dismissed.

The case was controversial from the beginning. Prosecutors changed the date they say the robbery happened the day the trail was set to start. Ruining Robert Larson’s alibi and it took 5 years for the court to believe him.

Larson spent 4 years, 7 months and 8 days in prison. He admits he had a troubled past and was convicted of a drug charge before being sent to prison in this case. 

Larson believes a 17-year-old involved in the crime framed him. He said the teen received a reduced sentence in exchange for his testimony.

“If it was backed by anything other than his word, it’d be one thing. I’d understand it. The only thing there was this kid’s word framing us from something we didn’t do,” said Larson.

The Innocence Project Northwest picked up their case after a half a decade in jail. Larson said they worked for months and eventually provided new phone and work records Larson said his original lawyer never did.

The judge agreed the new evidence was enough to create doubt and dismissed the charges. Larson said he couldn’t even express the gratitude he has for those who believed in him.

“I have resentment. But my anger, I let go of a long time ago,” said Larson.

Larson’s co-defendants Gassman and Statler are free also. Larson has a steady job and said Gassman and Statler are trying to rebuild their lives as well.