Daily Archives: March 20, 2007

Plea agreements be damned

(Sung very, very loosely to the tune of "The Brady Bunch")

Here’s the story of a woman named Rebekah, who thought she was going home.
Here’s the story of a DA named Hugh, who thought there was very little to do!
One day this lady (and this fella), met this Judge named Chushcoff
and he had some ideas of his own!
Plea bargains be damned, he said
and imposed a different sentence
as all let out a loud moan!

Okay, that was pretty bad, but now you have the general facts. Rebekah Todd entered into a plea bargain with the state to enter a guilty plea and receive a sentence of 30 days of home confinement. The judge, however, had a different idea and sentenced her to 6 months in jail.

Not only did he go and reject the agreed upon sentence, but he refused defense counsel’s request to give her some time to get her life together before she started serving the sentence. She was carted away from court, straight to prison.

It is common in most states for judges to have the authority to reject a plea agreement. What logically follows, however, is that the judge has to give the defendant the opportunity to withdraw the guilty plea. That does not seem to have happened here.

There is a severe Constitutional violation in this woman’s sentence and if I were her attorney, I’d be filing as many motions as I can think of, along with petitions for writ of habeas corpus and an appeal at the same time. This is not the sentence that the woman agreed to plead guilty to and it is a clear violation of Santobello v. New York. If you can find a set of circumstances that are an even clearer violation of Santobello, I’d be glad to hear them.

[For those who aren't familiar with Santobello, it simply states that the Government has to enforce the plea bargain that induced the defendant to waive his Constitutional rights and enter into a plea of guilty:

This phase of the process of criminal justice, and the adjudicative element inherent in accepting a plea of guilty, must be attended by safeguards to insure the defendant what is reasonably due in the circumstances. Those circumstances will vary, but a constant factor is that when a plea rests in any significant degree on a promise or agreement of the prosecutor, so that it can be said to be part of the inducement or consideration, such promise must be fulfilled.

]

The judge, meanwhile, is now on vacation.

HT: CrimLaw