A man serving a life sentence for holding up an Arkansas taco shop with a plastic water gun may finally get sprung – after 40 years behind bars.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday he plans to commute the sentence of 70-year-old Rolf Kaestel, who made off with $264 after he robbed Senor Bob’s Taco Hut in 1981.
“I just spoke with Rolf and wished him a Happy Independence Day, letting him know he would soon be a free man,” filmmaker Kelly Duda told The Post.
Duda had been one of many pushing for Kaestel’s release, and he had interviewed the inmate as a whistleblower in a state blood bank scandal – after which Kaestel was transferred to a Utah prison. The filmmaker, who said the blood bank interview didn’t win Kaestel “any favors with the good ol boys” has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Kaestel to make a “smooth transition” to freedom.
“Forty years is way too long to spend in jail for a water pistol robbery of $264,” Duda said. “While I’m grateful to Governor Hutchinson and to everyone who supported Rolf Kaestel’s release, it shouldn’t require a critical mass of influential people to right this wrong. “
Others who pushed for Kaestel’s release included the cashier at the taco stand who was robbed by Kaestel.
“I actually apologized to him because I felt like even though he was the one that robbed me, I felt like I had taken his life because he had been in there for so long,” Dennis Schultterman said in an emotional YouTube video posted by Duda.
Schlutterman said Kaestel never even pointed the fake gun at him, only displaying it by pulling his jacket back. In the video, he said he was “shocked” when he found out Kaestel was still in prison 25 years after the robbery.
“Many nights I sat there and thought about it and thought about it,” he said. “I couldn’t believe that he was still there.”
There are no law enforcement objections to the application, according to the announcement from the governor’s office.
There is a 30-day window for public comment on Kaestel’s clemency, The Daily Beast said. If nothing changes by Aug. 4, he’ll be immediately eligible for parole, a spokesperson for the governor told the website.