Winter Park standoff suspect’s attorney asks judge to reconsider plea deal rejection
July 12, 2009
Deal or no deal?
That’s the question now in the case of standoff suspect Brian Wilson.
Wilson’s attorneys and prosecutors will argue through court filings whether District Court Judge Mary Hoak should reconsider her ruling on a proposed plea bargain. The turn in the case came on Friday, two weeks after Hoak flatly rejected a plea deal in which Wilson would have pleaded guilty to one count of felony menacing with a knife.
Wilson, 52, of Denver, is the suspect in a three-hour standoff with police last Thanksgiving between the town of Winter Park and Winter Park Resort.
He stands charged with three counts of 1st degree assault, three counts of menacing, two counts of obstructing a police officer, three counts of prohibited use of a weapon, and one count each of obstructing a highway, driving under the influence, and DUI per se.
In her ruling two weeks ago, Hoak said the proposed plea would send the wrong message to the community about the seriousness of the case.
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Police allege, for instance, that Wilson “indiscriminately” fired four shots from a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol while officers attempted to subdue him at the conclusion of the three-hour standoff.
No knife was involved in the incident, but it was included in the plea deal so that Wilson would not have to be immediately remanded into custody as the result of his plea as he would if he pleaded guilty to a gun offense, attorneys said two weeks ago.
Citing a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling, Wilson’s lead attorney Harvey Steinberg argued on Friday that Hoak does not have the discretion to reject the plea on grounds of what charges it includes.
(The judge) “can’t tell the district attorney … what charges to make,” he said.
“When it comes to charge-bargaining, the court can’t interfere,” he said. To do so, he continued, would be “an intrusion into the executive branch function.”
When Hoak told him she didn’t think the 10th Circuit ruling was binding on the District Court, Steinberg countered that he thinks it is because it is a question of constitutional law.
The U.S. Constitution delineates the separation of powers among the judicial, executive and legislative branches of government, making it illegal for any one branch to usurp the authority of any other.
Steinberg distributed copies of the Circuit Court ruling on Friday to Hoak and Deputy District Attorney Daniel Miraflor, who spent several minutes studying the document before continuing.
“I’m not necessarily convinced that it’s binding,” Hoak said of the ruling after her cursory reading of it.
She also said she was concerned about the amount of time this case was taking, but that she would give Steinberg 30 days to file briefs with the court regarding this issue.
The DA’s office would then have 15 days to file a response, and Steinberg another five business days to respond to that response, after which Hoak said she will be prepared to make an oral ruling.
The case is scheduled to continue at 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4.