Former Memphis officer to plead guilty

(AP) - A former Memphis police sergeant has agreed to plead guilty to charges that he shot himself in the abdomen and then tried to blame the shooting on a Hispanic man, his defense attorney said Friday.

Norman Benjamin's defense lawyer Leslie Ballin said he and state prosecutors have agreed on a deal in which Benjamin will plead guilty at a later date to charges of false reporting, solicitation to commit first-degree murder, and unlawful sale, loan or gift of a firearm.

State prosecutors and Ballin have agreed on an eight-year sentence for Benjamin, who was fired from the police force after he was charged. The guilty plea and sentence must be approved by a criminal court judge at a hearing that could take place in late January or early February, Ballin said.

Benjamin waived his right to a preliminary hearing during a brief court appearance Friday in general sessions court. Benjamin also agreed to be charged in criminal court by criminal information, which skips the grand jury process and makes the case proceed more quickly. The guilty plea will be entered after the criminal information is filed.

Outside court, Ballin said Benjamin was doing relatively well despite being in jail since his Sept. 28 arrest.

"He's an unusual man, and he has accepted responsibility," Ballin said.

Benjamin was shot in the abdomen Sept. 3 and taken to a hospital in critical condition. He told investigators that a Hispanic man had shot him in his police vehicle, and authorities began to search for the suspect.

Police Director Toney Armstrong later said investigators believed Benjamin misled them and that he actually had been shot during a domestic argument by a woman with whom he had been romantically involved.

One woman was initially charged with attempted second-degree murder and a weapons violation. Those charges were dropped after it was determined that the woman did not shoot Benjamin, authorities said.

After his arrest, Benjamin acknowledged that he shot himself, authorities said.

Authorities also believe Benjamin tried to hire a hit man over the summer to kill someone for $800. Evidence also revealed that Benjamin purchased a handgun in August for an underage female.

Benjamin, who appeared in court wearing a green jail jumpsuit, remains jailed on $750,000 bond.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)