- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 3, 2015

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - A North Dakota man who earlier pleaded guilty in a murder-for-hire plot that left two people dead withdrew his guilty plea Tuesday in the wake of a certain life sentence.

Federal prosecutors say they plan to file a motion that would enable a lesser sentence, one that James Henrikson already agreed to when pleading guilty in September to ordering the murders of Kristopher Clarke and Spokane businessman Doug Carlile.

The Spokesman-Review (http://bit.ly/1HpvXoN ) reported that Henrikson, Timothy Suckow and Robert Delao appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Salvador Mendoza on Tuesday in Spokane.

Mendoza ruled last week the three defendants faced a minimum sentence of life in prison based on the severity of the charges against them in the murder-for-hire plots. That’s a greater penalty than the multiple decades in prison the three men agreed to in deals with prosecutors leading up to trial.

“Before the court accepts a plea of guilty, the court must inform the defendant of, and determine that the defendant understands, any mandatory minimum penalty,” Mendoza wrote in his ruling.

Henrikson, implicated as the man who ordered the deaths of Clarke and Carlile over business disagreements, chose to withdraw his plea. His trial was scheduled for January.

Scott Jones, an assistant U.S. attorney, said he would request an addition to the plea agreements of all three defendants that they provide “substantial assistance” to investigators. Todd Maybrown, an attorney for Henrikson, said his client would be willing to accept this requirement.

Under that motion, Mendoza could impose a prison sentence less than the mandatory minimum and in line with the previously approved plea agreement.

Neither Suckow nor Delao chose to withdraw their guilty pleas, according to court records.

A hearing was scheduled Dec. 18 to revisit Henrikson’s case.

In September, Henrikson, 36, admitted that he ordered the deaths of Clarke and Carlile, associates tied to North Dakota’s oil-field business. Henrikson said he employed Suckow as the hit man both times.

Henrikson acknowledged in court that Clarke was bludgeoned to death in February 2012 by Suckow in Henrikson’s North Dakota truck shop.

Suckow fatally shot Carlile in December 2013 in Carlile’s upscale Spokane home.

Delao pleaded guilty to nine federal counts, including involvement in setting up the Carlile murder.

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Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com

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