Defendant Reluctantly Pleads to 6-Year Sentence, Telling Judge ‘I Feel I Have to Do It’


By Ned Meiners

FRESNO, CA – Defendant Eric Carillo had his plea rejected by Fresno County Superior Court Judge Brian Alvarez here Monday because, according to the judge, “I don’t want to be accused of forcing anyone to enter into a plea.”

Carillo currently faces five counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor, which holds a maximum penalty of 75 years to life.

Deputy District Attorney Andrew Janz explained that the prosecution had offered a deal if Carillo would plead to two counts of the above charges, and one count of sexual battery, in exchange for having additional charges dropped. Under the agreement Carillo would serve six years in prison.

When Judge Alvarez asked the defendant if he wished to make the plea, Carillo responded, “It’s not what I want to do, but I feel that I have to do it.”

Judge Alvarez advised that he would not accept a plea under such conditions.

“I’m not going to accept the plea at this time if you’re not entering the plea freely and voluntarily,” said the judge. “You don’t have to do it, no one’s forcing you to do it. You have a right to avail yourself of your jury trial rights.”

Carillo stated he understood the judge, but feared that he may face a harsher sentence at trial. According to the defendant, “I just feel that if I go to trial, it might not be a better outcome than this piece of paper that I signed.”

It is common for a defendant to receive a more severe sentence at trial than they would in a plea agreement, a phenomenon known as “Trial Penalty.” This practice has been criticized by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers because it discourages defendants from asserting their constitutional right to a jury trial.

The judge explained that he was aware of the difficult decision the defendant was making, but needed to be certain Carillo had made the decision voluntarily, that no one “twisted his arm” to make the plea, and he understood the agreement he had signed.

Carillo stated that he had weighed the consequences and made the agreement knowingly, arguing, “If I go to trial and I lose…I’ll end up losing  my freedom for the rest of my life.” said Carillo, adding, “I do sign [the plea agreement] freely and willingly.”

The judge examined Carillo’s plea form, which had been prepared earlier, and noted it stated he had signed the document under duress. So, Judge Alvarez refused to accept such a plea and ordered the defendant to discuss the matter with his lawyer, Kojo Moore—later, Carillo returned and pleaded no contest without reservation.

He will return to the court on July 26 for sentencing.

Ned Meiners is a Legal Studies student at City College San Francisco. Originally from Maine, he currently resides on Bernal Hill in San Francisco.


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