Friday - In a long day of negotiation and tension, six of the defendants in the Winslow hazing cases accepted plea agreements. At the end of the day, County Attorney Mel Bowers said, "We made it clear that our best offer is on the table today."
The plea offer was the same for each defendant: all charges were reduced to one charge of aggravated assault for each incident. This is a class six felony, non-dangerous, non-repetitive and open-ended. The charge can be reduced to a misdemeanor if the defendant successfully completes the term of probation set by the judge.
Two judges, Greg Martin and Peter Reinstein from Maricopa County, appeared to hold the conferences and hear the pleas. This makes five judges who have been involved in these cases, from four counties. Judge Fred Newton of Coconino County will do the sentencing sometime near the end of September. The date was not set during this hearing.
The judges said that this hearing was being conducted differently from the traditional routine. The negotiations were being recorded by Court Reporters but the transcripts were to be sealed. This would make the conferences private between the defendants, the victims, family members and their lawyers. The settlements with any advisory changes of plea were to be heard in open court.
Then the conferences were scattered through the courthouse and proceeded for several hours. The opening statements were hear about 9 a.m. and the first pleas came after 2 p.m.
The first time the press were aware of what the pleas would be came with the first two defendants to emerge from the conferences. Timothy Lewis pled guilty to three charges, involving four incidents. The charges were read off by number and Lewis pronounced the word "guilty" after each one. Then his lawyer read into the record a description of the offense. The Deputy County Attorney for the cases also took a turn reading into the record additional material for the victims. The judge reminded the defendant that he gave up certain constitutional rights when pleading guilty, although he could still ask for a review of any conviction. The sentence was described as limited to probation, but could be for as much as three years. Lewis was told that if he successfully completed his probation his charges would be recorded as misdemeanors. If he broke probation he would have to return to court and could both go to jail and have the offenses recorded as felonies.
This would be the pattern with each defendant. William Shoupe pled guilty to four charges of aggravated assault with the same conditions. His attorney reminded the court that he was a co-defendant with Lewis.
At this point the judge talked about the pre-sentencing reports. Each defendant was to get in touch with the County Probation Office as soon as possible to start the reports that would need to be prepared before sentencing. As the day wore on, it became clear that for the last to plead, this would not be Friday, but Monday.
Jason Black appeared next. He pled guilty to five counts of aggravated assault. The judge explained during this segment that the possibility of restitution existed, and that the monetary costs could be high.
Martin Woods came next and pled guilty to ten counts, with dates ranging from November,1999 to March 2000. In addition to the pre-sentencing reports required for all the defendants, Woods was told that he was required to have a psycho-sexual evaluation. The state announced that it might withdraw the plea agreement depending on the results of this examination. Woods' lawyer said, "We agree to every one of the amended counts."
At this point the victims families were mentioned. One had preferred not to be notified or present, but several were present. They were consulted throughout the day by the county attorneys and agreed to the form of the pleas as each defendant came to the bar.
Steven Garnett, Jr., pled guilty to nine counts of aggravated assault. His parents were there to support both him and Martin Woods. Garnett will also have to undergo a psycho-sexual evaluation and his plea agreement rests on the outcome of that testing.
The final change of plea came from Brian Marquez who pled guilty to one count of aggravated assault in the late afternoon. He too is eligible for probation and may have only a misdemeanor offense listed on his record.
The judges told the courtroom that they appreciated the cooperation they had received from all concerned. They were complimentary toward all the people in attendance through what had been a long and tense day. In fact, everyone behaved with considerable decorum, on all sides. Even the media.
The Navajo County Court staff put everything into getting this case seen in one day. Judge Tom Wing gave up this courtroom and heard cases in the Holbrook Justice Court. No one said where the Holbrook magistrate went. The County Attorney and his deputies and members of his staff worked throughout the day doing everything from bringing in more coffee and water to circulating through the conferences to keep them going. The court reporters worked in relays and steadily throughout the day.
In the end there were two young men who did not complete negotiations Friday. Shane Garnett and Logan Payne still have to settle whether they will accept a plea agreement or proceed to trial. It is not likely to be known which will occur for either of them before mid-week. The case of Daniel Gonzalez was scheduled to be heard next Friday.
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