Caffee Enters Plea, Scheduled to Leave Prison This Month

A man convicted of murder in Stephens County in 2007, but then granted a new trial in 2010, has reached a plea agreement and will avoid another trial.

Van Allen Caffee entered an Alford plea in Superior Court in Stephens County Wednesday afternoon on a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter and a charge of aggravated assault in connection to the 2006 death of James Robert Lewis.

A defendant does not admit guilt with an Alford plea, but acknowledges that enough evidence may exist for a conviction.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Caffee was sentenced to serve seven years in prison on a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter with credit for time served since his arrest on July 24, 2006. As a result, Caffee is scheduled to be released from prison later this month, on March 26. He will still serve three years probation on that charge.

On the aggravated assault charge, he received a 20-year suspended prison sentence provided he comply with a number of conditions. Under those conditions, Caffee may not violate any laws; he shall be banished from all counties in Georgia except Clayton County; he shall report by telephone to the District Attorney in Stephens County twice a year to provide his address and state truthfully whether he has been arrested; and he shall dismiss a federal habeas corpus action he filed against Stephens County Sheriff Randy Shirley.

In return, prosecutors dropped charges including felony murder, kidnapping with bodily injury, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

A jury originally convicted Caffee of murder and related charges in 2007 in relation to the 2006 kidnapping and murder of James Robert Lewis.

However, Judge Robert Struble granted Caffee a new trial on the charges in 2010.

Then in March 2011, Mountain Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Russell Smith ruled that because Judge Struble’s order granting Caffee a new trial cited insufficient evidence, double jeopardy protections applied to Caffee and Caffee could not be retried.

However, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed that order and remanded the case for a new trial in March 2012.