City man backs out of federal plea deal, but also admits guilt

He won't concede he attacked officers in gun case, saying they 'would have shot me'

March 12, 2010|By Tricia Bishop | Baltimore Sun reporter

A Baltimore man backed out of a federal plea deal Friday, but still went ahead with his guilty plea in a surprising move that could net him extra prison time.

Defendant Anthony Wiggins, 31, readily accepted responsibility for being a felon in possession of a handgun -- two, in fact, both loaded -- when his cab was pulled over in Baltimore for broken tail lights on Sept.16. He also admits to resisting arrest and trying to escape by jumping in the Patapsco River.

But he refused to concede government claims that he attacked three officers.

"I did not assault any officers," Wiggins said repeatedly, offering to take an on-the-spot lie detector test and suggesting that he'd be dead or hospitalized if he did what prosecutors claimed.

"This is Baltimore City," he said. "The police would have shot me."

His decision to forgo a trial, withdraw from the deal and plead "straight up to the indictment," as U.S. District Court Judge William D. Quarles put it, means that all agreements are now off the table. The seven-year sentence Wiggins had originally negotiated for the gun charges could be bumped up to a maximum of 10 years.

The government plans to call the officers as witnesses at Wiggins' sentencing and to ask for every appropriate enhancement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kwame Manley said, making sure Wiggins understood that he "may have got a better deal" if he'd gone forward with the plea.

That means Wiggins' fate is now in Quarles' hands, and he doesn't expect it to go well. "It's scary," he said to the judge. "To my understanding, you're going to give me the maximum."

Wiggins entered court Friday saying he felt pressured to make a deal because Quarles is known as a tough sentencer.

"Your reputation precedes you, your honor," he said early on. Later, he added: "I'm not a bad person. Please don't throw me away."

It was an unexpected resolution to a case that was already full of the unexpected.

Wiggins was riding in a cab with another passenger on the night he was arrested. The car was pulled over for faulty lights, and after Wiggins refused to consent to a search, things got physical. Police say he fought back, and he says they beat him. He was taken to Baltimore's Harbor Hospital -- twice, after refusing to sign paperwork the first time -- and tried to get away by jumping in the river.

A "notion" had been placed in his head that he would be harmed further, said his attorney, Assistant Federal Public Defender Christopher Nieto.

Sentencing has been set for June 16.

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