State high court rules judge interfered in plea deal
A Las Vegas man will be allowed to withdraw a guilty plea on a robbery charge because a judge misled him, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled Friday.
The court ruled that Jammie Jackson of Las Vegas can withdraw the plea because District Judge Joseph Bonaventure effectively convinced him to accept the plea offer by making him think he would get a lesser sentence.
Jackson’s lawyers argued the judge facilitated the plea by indicating in court he would get a minimum two-five-year sentence. After he accepted the deal, Bonaventure instead sentenced the defendant to two consecutive terms of 4-15 years in prison.
“Our preliminary review of the record on appeal revealed that the district court may have improperly participated in the plea negotiation process,” the Supreme Court wrote.
While prosecutors denied any undue influence, the court transcript included an exchange indicating Jackson had reservations about the deal, followed by the judge telling defense counsel: “I can give him the minimums.”
“Appellant could reasonably conclude from the district court’s statement that he would be sentenced to the minimum prison terms,” wrote Chief Justice Bob Rose, justices Michael Douglas and Ron Parraguirre. “The judge effectively convinced appellant to accept the state’s plea offer.”
They also pointed out the judge never asked Jackson if he had been promised anything to plead guilty, or asked whether he understood that the judge could ignore the proposed plea bargain. Those questions are standard in accepting any guilty plea.
Because the judge’s comments “tainted the plea process,” the high court ruled Jackson’s guilty plea involuntary and invalid. They voided the sentence and directed he be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea in the case.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.