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A Maryland lawyer and children’s entertainer accused of traveling to have sex with what he thought was a 14-year-old boy is asking an Orlando federal judge to withdraw his guilty plea because he allegedly cannot remember pleading guilty and claims he was threatened into signing the legal document.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the 48-year-old man filed a 46-page, hand-written motion Jan. 12 in Orlando federal court maintaining he has a diminished mental capacity, ineffective counsel and malicious prosecution.
The man apparently signed a plea agreement last year stating he traveled to Lake County to have sexual relations with a boy who he found through an online ad posted by undercover detectives on Craigslist. He later entered the plea before a judge at a hearing.
The man was arrested on May 23 after arranging to meet what he thought was a young boy and his uncle at a restaurant in Clermont. He allegedly told detectives he wanted to assist the boy with exploring intimate relations.
The man contends his attorney forced him to sign the plea agreement, and says he does not consciously remember signing the agreement when it came time for the plea hearing.
In his motion, the man mentions being suicidal, anxious, stressed and constantly crying while in jail and at court proceedings.
He remains at the Orange County Jail.
Plea agreements allow a person accused of a crime to plead guilty or no contest to charges in exchange for a set punishment. This allows someone accused of a crime to avoid a trial by a jury or judge. Plea agreements can be advantageous to those accused of a crime because they often assure a smaller amount of jail time or possibly no period of incarceration at all.
A judge will not automatically allow a defendant to vacate a plea of guilty. In order to file a motion to withdraw a guilty plea, there must be grounds to do so. If it can be shown that a defendant was coerced into accepting a plea agreement, then a viable claim does exist. It must be demonstrated that the accused was guided by improper influence and was threatened into accepting a deal. Additionally, a possible claim for ineffective counsel may exist if a trial attorney persuaded the defendant into accepting a plea based off of incorrect or misrepresented facts of the law. If it can be shown that the defendant was insane or under the influence of medication that made it impossible for them to make an informed decision or understand the consequences of a plea, then this may also be grounds for a judge to withdraw a guilty plea.
It is important to understand that a vacated plea does not guarantee that a defendant will receive a better deal. After a plea is vacated, the prosecution may be more inclined to proceed with a trial without offering an accused any pre-trial negotiations. If the defendant is convicted at trial, it is possible for the sentence to be greater than the consequences associated with the original plea bargain.
A Florida Sex Crimes Trial Attorney can investigate any issues surrounding a verdict or plea and discuss if you have a viable post-conviction claim. If one does exist, then a post-conviction motion can be filed, which will start the litigation process.
If you have already plead guilty to a criminal offense in the state of Florida, contact the Florida Sex Crimes Trial Attorneys at Whittel & Melton online or call us statewide and toll-free at 1-866-608-5LAW (5529).
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