COURT WATCH: Judge Voices Concern Over Possible Plea Leading to Multiple Strikes, Asks Attorneys to Negotiate Again 

By Audrey Sawyer

MODESTO, CA – Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Carrie Stephens took issue here this week with a proposed possible plea deal for a man with a string of cases, including two felonies and one misdemeanor, and asked the prosecution and defense to try again.

The judge appeared concerned that the accused did not have a significant criminal history prior to these cases, and the alleged plea would have given the accused two strikes.

Deputy Public Defender Konmith Moth confirmed that, aside from the three cases currently on calendar, the accused has no prior criminal history, adding, “One of the cases is an alleged incident that might have caused a rear ending to occur. While a child was in the other vehicle (not the vehicle of the accused), he was likely unaware that a child was in danger at this point.”

DPD Moth continued to discuss an intimidation case which had involved text messages that were allegedly sent and according to the police report were about an attempt of trying to offer money so that the victim would not testify.

A second text allegedly claimed the accused had a gun and he would go to the victim’s residence with that gun, though DPD Moth was under the impression the two texts were from separate incidents. One incident was in August where he had wiped texts, and another from June.

DPD Moth said that the accused was “willing to accept a prison sentence” with two years in one case with his other charges running concurrently.

While Judge Stephens did not view the time of the offer to be excessive, she took issue with the offer “probably not being in the interest of the accused,” and asked if both Counts 1 and 2 charged with enhancements were strikes, and she was told they would be strikes.

Deputy District Attorney Ney Montenegro told the court the offer is for three years and eight months on both cases. One of the cases is three years to Count 1 and two years in Count 2 to run concurrently to Count 1. This is consecutive to another case.

Judge Stephens brought up the accused’s lack of criminal history, asking if the offer was for two strikes to be plead that day.

Since it would be a plea for prison time, Judge Stephens emphasized, “Pleading to prison should be no more than one strike. Or if he pleads to two strikes, he ought to get less time in prison.”

It was then noted the agreement of the two strikes had originated from the conduct that was mentioned to which the accused was still able to locate the house of the alleged victim.

Again, Judge Stephens brought up proportionality, arguing the accused currently has no prior criminal history, adding, “I am not empowered to do much, I cannot really just dismiss cases, I cannot dismiss an enhancement, there is not much else I can do.”

Judge Stephens concluded by asking the two attorneys to either negotiate a deal that is either only one strike, or less time with two strikes.

About The Author

Audrey is a senior at UC San Diego majoring in Political Science (Comparative Politics emphasis). After graduation, Audrey plans on attending graduate school and is considering becoming a public defender.

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