Convicted burglar accuses state's attorney of vindictiveness

August 07, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

The burglary and theft case of Marvin Skiles seemed open and shut -- until his attorney began arguing that prosecutors were trying to wreak vengeance on his client for not agreeing to a plea bargain.

In Circuit Court yesterday, Assistant Public Defender James D. McCarthy accused the state's attorney of being vindictive in his handling of the case, saying he gave Skiles notice of a mandatory sentence right after the May 26 trial simply because Skiles refused to make a deal.

Mr. McCarthy charged that before the trial, he was told by Assistant State's Attorney Eugene M. Whissel II that his office would waive the mandatory sentence provision if Skiles, 24, pleaded guilty to a lesser burglary count.

But when Skiles refused and was convicted, the response was "vindictive on the part of the state's attorney and amounts to a decision to punish the defendant not for his crime, but for his election to exercise his constitutional rights," Mr. McCarthy wrote in his request for yesterday's hearing.

Mr. Whissel countered that no such offer was made.

Mr. McCarthy is asking the court to quash the mandatory sentence notice as a step toward having the sentence reduced. Judge Raymond Thieme Jr. did not rule yesterday but took the matter under advisement.

Skiles, a Pasadena resident, was convicted in a 53-minute trial of burglary and felony theft. He called no witnesses and did not testify himself.

Police called to a Brooklyn Park home last November found a door kicked in and Skiles inside, a gold ring on his right middle finger and a half-dozen pieces of jewelry in his pockets. Neither ,, the home nor the jewelry was his.

When Judge Thieme sentenced Skiles July 10, he was bound by statutes requiring maximum sentences for third-time violent offenders. He gave Skiles 25 years.

Skiles is already serving a 15-year sentence for a burglary in Baltimore.

Both attorneys were sworn in yesterday and testified in defense of their positions.

Mr. McCarthy and Skiles testified that they briefly discussed the prosecutor's offer.

Mr. Whissel said he only approached defense counsel before the trial to "see if there were any points we could agree on beforehand."

Had he made a firm offer, Mr. Whissel said, he would have have written it down. He said serving notice on the mandatory sentence after the trial was not vindictive but a routine follow-up to the conviction. Only State's Attorney Frank Weathersbee can approve waiving a mandatory sentence, Mr. Whissel said.

Mr. Weathersbee said yesterday that he probably would not have waived it if asked.

"It wasn't a case where there were any reasons to go that route, because the defendant never wanted to plead guilty," Mr. Weathersbee said.

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