Clarifying the plea agreement statement
Ms. Randall misstates what I have been saying about plea agreements in a letter to the editor in the Oct. 27 Enterprise. I have never said that I will eliminate plea bargaining. I have repeatedly stated I will reduce plea bargaining. I believe it is inappropriate to plead down or dismiss serious felony offenses absent exceptional circumstances.
For example, during the last four years, five felony level sexual assault cases were resolved with the felony charges being dismissed. Some of these cases involved victims under the age of 13. Five cases involving sexual predators that failed to register were resolved with a stay of adjudication (meaning there was no conviction). Similarly, there were numerous first, second and third degree drug cases that were resolved without felony convictions.
According to the information I obtain from court administration, over 42 percent of the felony cases that were resolved in 2009 were disposed of without obtaining a felony conviction. In 2008, this number significantly exceeded 50 percent. This year, as of September 14, 2010, this number has exceeded 45 percent.
To reduce inappropriate plea bargaining and increase accountability, it is necessary to: (1) make charging decisions that will result in convictions, (2) prosecute cases through trial if necessary, and (3) make sentencing recommendations that are within the sentencing guidelines.
I have been very open about my record. According to the information available to me online, I prosecuted 204 criminal cases in 2007. The majority of the cases I prosecuted were resolved with a conviction to the charge or a very comparable charge (same level of offense). Only 49 cases were resolved by a stay of adjudication or dismissal. Of those 49 cases, 31 involved minor traffic offenses. You cannot compare dismissing a minor traffic offense to dismissing a sexual assault case involving a victim under the age of 13 or allowing a methamphetamine dealer to walk.
Will plea bargaining be eliminated? No, but we can do better than dismissing or pleading down 42 percent of the felonies.
Nathaniel D. Welte
Candidate for Hubbard County