Thursday, July 27, 2006

Judge makes right decision in Geske sentencing matter; case will not be reopened

Sixteen-year-old Thomas Geske is currently serving a 25-year prison term in the Green Bay Correctional Institute for sexual assault, reckless endangerment and child enticement – charges to which he pled no contest, was subsequently found guilty and last November sentenced.

Recently Geske and his new defense attorney Ralph Sczygelski sought to withdraw his no contest pleas and reopen the case, arguing among other things, that his former defense attorney, Jennifer Thompson, promised him he would not get the 25 year sentence prosecutors sought. He testified that he never felt comfortable with the plea agreement but that Thompson prodded him into accepting it. In her own testimony, Thompson denied Geske’s claims, saying she has never made any kind of sentencing promise to Geske or any other client, and further said she shared all evidence with Geske and worked very hard to achieve a good outcome for him.

After nearly two hours of testimony, Winnebago County Circuit Court Judge William Carver denied each of Geske’s motions – a ruling that seems to be the right one for this case. Here’s why…

Let’s say, for the sake of argument that Thompson DID promise Geske he’d do a lesser sentence than 25 years. And let’s go one step further and, for discussion purposes, say she DID push him into accepting a plea agreement. A judge ALWAYS asks the defendant if they understand the agreement they’re entering into and whether they are entering into it of their own free will. Judges also always ask if anyone has made any promises to the defendant in exchange for their plea. And judges also ask if the defendant understands that the judge is not bound by the agreement and can use his or her own discretion in sentencing, using the guidelines prescribed by the state. If Geske had any concerns about his representation with respect to his plea and what his ultimate sentence might be, the time to speak was when he was asked those questions, not some time later when he may have decided the state prison is more than he can handle and has likely had a change of heart about what he told the court. The best time to have had a change of heart would have been before he committed the crimes that landed him in court, and prison, to begin with. All things considered, it seems justice has been served in Geske’s case; so should the time he’s been sentenced to.


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