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Appeals court rejects defendant’s effort to take back plea

Admission is more than three years old

The Third District Court of Appeals has rejected a defendant’s claim that he should have been allowed to withdraw a guilty plea more than three years after admitting two counts of failure to stop after an accident.

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MORGAN

Buster R. Morgan, 34, formerly of West Milton, wanted to withdraw his pleas of guilty to third- and fifth-degree felony charges of failure to stop after an accident resulting in the death of a person; and failure to stop after an accident resulting in serious physical harm to a person.

The defendant ran over Jeffrey S. Gates, 48, and his son, Virgil Gates, 24, on July 11, 2009, killing the elder Mr. Gates and critically injuring his son.

Mr. Morgan was sentenced in April 2010 to four years, 11 months in prison, and was denied a motion for early release in December 2012.

To justify withdrawing his guilty plea to the charges, the defendant claims his attorney “guaranteed” at the time of sentence he wouldn’t have to serve more than two years in prison.

The defendant also claimed he should not have been handcuffed during a July 17, 2013, hearing on whether he could take back his guilty plea. He also claimed he should have been afforded a public defender upon request at that hearing.

Logan County Common Pleas Court Judge Mark S. O’Connor ruled then the defendant had no basis to withdraw his guilty plea. On the question of representation, the defendant would have only been entitled to court-appointed representation following appeal of his 2010 sentence, which he didn’t appeal.

“Notably, Morgan did not file an affidavit of indigency apprising the trial court of eligibility for court-appointed counsel until Aug. 12, 2013, — nearly a month after” the hearing, the appeals court wrote.

The appeals court did not uphold one of the defendant’s objections and, in fact, noted that several of them had already been considered.

As for whether he pleaded guilty to running over the victims under a “guarantee” that he wouldn’t have to serve more than two years in prison, the appeals court cited court transcripts at the time of the plea and sentencing in which the court spelled out the maximum penalties involved for the crimes.

The defendant was also asked whether he had been promised anything outside of the plea agreement to get him to plead guilty. He said nothing then about being guaranteed only a two-year prison stay, the appeals court notes.

The defendant is due to be released from prison in March 2015.

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