The front page of the Cincinnati Enquirer highlights a recent Appeals Court decision that could impact plea agreements in Cincinnati and throughout Ohio.
The case involves Kareem “Little Red” Gilbert, his father Ruben “Red” Jordan, and a meatball sandwich.
According to the paper, in 2008, Kareem Gilbert
was horsing around with Brian Austin and Vernon Davis. Tempers flared, and Austin hit Gilbert with a meatball sandwich. Gilbert shot Austin to death as Davis ran off. Davis, aware of the Gilbert family’s neighborhood reputation, was so scared he also would be killed that he told his family what clothes to put on him at his funeral. Davis was shot and killed Oct. 31, 2008. Police eventually charged Gilbert with both killings.
In 2010, prosecutors agreed to drop the murder charges against Gilbert in exchange for his agreement to testify against his father in the case. The plea agreement contained a provision that prosecutors could reinstate the original murder charges if the did not testify truthfully.
However, at his father’s trial. Glbert testified that his father did not commot the crime. Ironically, the jury, after hearing a taped statement from Gilbert implicating his father, still convicted his father of murder.
The prosecutors, perhaps, made a mistake. They allowed Gilbert to be sentenced before he testified against his father. In the news, they explained that they sought this because “both father and son were in the Justice Center, posing a security threat.”
After Gulbert breached the plea agreement, the prosecutors asked the trial judge to reisnate the orginal sentence. The court agreed and sentenced Gilbert on the murder charge. However, the appeals court said that this was improper. In short, the appeals court reasoned that a final judgment convicting and sentencing a defendant cannot be re-opened in these circumstances.
Two of the appeals court judges noted that this outcome threatens other plea agreements. The concern is that if agreements cannot be enforced, then prosecutors will be reluctant to offer such deals.
The legal issues in the case are discussed on the Ohio Criminal Appeals Blog maintained by Michael K. Allen & Associates Of Counsel J. Adam Engel.
Defense lawyers criticized the prosecutor’s office.
“This is a mistake of the Hamilton County prosecutors,” public defender Young said. “It’s to their advantage to hold the sentence over (Gilbert’s) head,” said Candace Crouse, head of the Greater Cincinnati Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. “They might have just messed this one up.”
Some of the issues in this case may be the result of the unique circumstances and timing issues. However, the law in this area is rapidly evolving, and the prosecutors may seek further review of this issue by the Ohio Supreme Court. For this reason, persons considering a plea agreement with the government should be certain to consult an attorney with extensive criminal law and appellate law experience.