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Sirens & Gavels

Court says killer can withdraw guilty plea

A Spokane man who pleaded guilty to a 2007 murder has been allowed to withdraw his guilty plea because prosecutors failed to tell him he had to spend a minimum of 20 years in prison before he would be eligible for early release.

The Division III Court of Appeals issued its decision Thursday to allow Michael D. Coombes to withdraw the plea because he was not “informed of a direct consequence of his plea.

” Coombes, 30, pleaded guilty to killing 53-year-old William R. Nichols sometime between Aug. 30 and Sept. 2, 2007.

Coombes pleaded guilty in June 2008 and received a 27-year prison sentence.

However, he appealed his sentence because he had the mistaken belief that he was eligible to begin early release credit during the entire sentence, according to court documents.

The portion of his plea that explained the minimum 20-year sentence was left blank in the court file. The case now returns to Superior Court Judge Michael Price to allow Coombes to withdraw his plea.


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