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Sirens & Gavels

Posts tagged: plea agreements

Fair-weather murder witness charged

A man who backed out of an agreement to testify at a fellow gang member's murder trial has been charged with two felonies for his alleged involvement in the slaying.

Antonio E. Cook, 29, appeared in Superior Court Monday on charges of conspiracy to commit first-degree assault and first-degree rendering criminal assistance.

He's accused of conspiring with accused killer Edward Lee “T.D.” Thomas to commit the assault that led to the death of John S. Williams, and of helping hide Thomas when he was sought on a first-degree murder charge. DNA found on the rifle used to kill Williams matched Thomas' DNA, according to court documents.

Cook has confessed to providing the weapon to Thomas and has said that Thomas was angry with a gang member who had “disrespected him,” according to court documents.

Thomas was driven from the murder scene by Cedric E. “Dirty” Burton, who is in prison for rendering criminal assistance. Police say Thomas went to Cook's house after the shooting and stayed there until the next day.

Police wanted Cook charged with second-degree murder under the state's accomplice law, but prosecutors instead opted for the assault charge.

It's the third felony case filed against Cook since June, after it became clear he would not be testifying against Thomas, who's to stand trial Aug. 22.

Cook already is due to serve 22 months after pleading guilty in May to unrelated third-degree assault and witness tampering charges. He's already awaiting sentencing after a jury convicted him last week of first-degree burglary, fourth-degree assault and witness tampering for an unrelated domestic violence case.

Office manager admits to stealing $538k

A Colfax woman admitted Tuesday to embezzling $538,000 from the family-owned urology clinic in Pullman where she worked as a business manager.

Alicia E. Napier, 47, pleaded guilty to 14 counts of mail fraud and two counts of bank fraud in the case where she admitted diverting funds from Palouse Urology for her personal use between 2001 and 2009.

“Her mail and bank fraud scheme went undetected for so long because she was a trusted employee,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Rice wrote in a news release.

Though she likely get far less time, Napier faces up to 20 years in prison for the mail fraud and up to 30 years in prison for bank fraud when she's sentenced on Sept. 1

Man gets 22 mos after refusing to testify

A man was sentenced to just under two years in prison Tuesday after reneging on his promise to testify in two shootings.

Antonio E. Cook Jr., 29, previously pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and witness tampering in cases unrelated to the two shootings, and Deputy Spokane County Prosecutor Mark Cipolla agreed to dismiss the charges in exchange for his testimony.

Cook has since refused to testify, Cipolla said, so the charges were reinstated and he pleaded guilty.  Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza sentenced Cook to 22 months in prison Tuesday.

Cook was a witness to the July 2009 shooting that injured two women. Timothy “Stoney Boy” Lucious was convicted of second-degree assault, which was his third strike and resulted in a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In the other case, John S. “Q” Williams was shot to death on Jan. 17, 2010. Alleged triggerman Edward “TD” Thomas, 25, and six other people have been charged in the investigation, which was assisted by Cook’s statements to police.

Cook testfied at Lucious' trial, but Thomas' trial hasn't happened yet.

5th Somali guilty plea in piracy killings

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — Two Somali men pleaded guilty on Monday to piracy in the hijacking of a yacht that left all four Americans on board dead, while new details emerged about who fired at the hostages.

Burhan Abdirahman Yusuf and Jilani Abdiali face mandatory life sentences, but as part of a plea agreement they could serve less time and eventually be deported to Somalia.

 The men are among 14 people from Somalia and one from Yemen facing charges related to the February hijacking of the yacht Quest. (Three are pictured in March.) Three of the 14 men have already pleaded guilty to piracy in plea deals, and all five face sentencing in August and September.

Two others are expected to make similar deals Tuesday. Whether any of the men who plead get less prison time may not be known until long after their sentencing hearings because the government wants their cooperation for any future charges in this and possibly other cases.

Abdiali told U.S. District Judge Mark Davis through a translator at a hearing Monday that he had never committed a crime in the past before becoming a pirate and would work tirelessly for the U.S. government.

“We hope the string of convictions in this and other cases help send a message to others that piracy against American vessels will not be tolerated,” U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride said in a statement.

 The owners of the Quest, Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey, Calif., along with friends Bob Riggle and Phyllis Macay of Seattle (pictured), were shot to death several days after being taken hostage several hundred miles south of Oman.

They were the first U.S. citizens killed in a wave of pirate attacks that have plagued the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean in recent years. Prosecutors said the men intended to bring the Americans to Somalia and hold them for ransom there. Pirates typically seek millions of dollars for hostages.

In a statement of facts Yusuf agreed to Monday, he said the 19 men who had taken control of the yacht would have split 65 percent of the ransom money among themselves and an interpreter. The other 35 percent would be given to a financier. In Abdiali's statement of facts, he said he saw that pirates were making a lot of money and had big houses and cars, so he spoke with a financier about joining an expedition that ultimately led him to board the American yacht.

Their plan to make money fell through when U.S. Navy warships began shadowing the Quest.

Yusuf said a man aboard the yacht named Ibrahim was in charge at the time of the shooting. According to Yusuf, Ibrahim told the Navy, “We are not going to stop, you try to stop us if you can.” Other court records say it was Ibrahim — who is among four pirates who died aboard the boat — who gave the order to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at a Navy ship as a warning shot.

Yusuf said some of the other men on board said they were going to massacre the hostages in order to get the U.S. boats to retreat.

Before the shooting, five men were guarding the Americans with guns pointed at them, including two who later died.

Yusuf identified Ahmed Muse Salad, Abukar Osman Beyle and Shani Nurani Shiekh Abrar as the men who survived the ordeal and who fired on the hostages.

When U.S. special forces scrambled onto the occupied vessel, they found the Americans and two of the pirates' bodies. Two other pirates died in the operation.

The original indictment against the 15 men says at least three of them shot the Americans, but it had not previously identified who pulled the trigger.

Past coverage:

March 15: Somali pirate suspects charged with piracy

Man admits to stalking, bomb charges

A man who tried to blow up his wife with a homemade bomb after transporting the device from Omak, Washington, to Kamiah, Idaho, in 2009 has pleaded guilty to three federal felonies.

Levi Wayne Mendenhall, 31, faces up to 10 years in prison and three years probation after pleading guilty Tuesday in Coeur d'Alene to stalking, transporting explosives with intent to kill, injure, or intimidate, and use of explosive material during the commission of a federal felony.

Mendenhall  constructed the device using a three-inch plastic pipe filled with explosive powder, razor blades and BBs after buying the components at stores in northeastern Washington, according to the Idaho U.S. Attorney's Office.

He wired the device to a battery and placed it inside a box, then set the device to trigger an explosion when and items was removed from the box. He placed the box on the hood of a car outside his estranged wife's home. The homeowner found the box and called authorities after she saw wires.

The Spokane County bomb squad safely disarmed the device.

Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms nd Explosives recovered explosive powder matching the device and a receipt for two of the bomb components at Mendenhall's home in Omak. They also found video of him buying the components at four Washington stores, and located Mendenhall's fingerprint on the outside of the box that held the bomb.

Mendenhall is to be sentenced Aug. 2 before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge in Coeur d'Alene

“Women who end domestic relationships must be free from violence and fear of violence,” U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said in a prepared statement. “This defendant's conduct endangered many lives. His guilty plea ensures that he will not present a danger to his now ex-wife or any other person for a long time.”
  

Tips sought on robbery victim, suspect

UPDATE: Vanscoik and Dahlen were booked into jail on May 13.

Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for tips that help arrest both the victim and suspect in a home-invasion robbery that occurred one year ago Wednesday.

Aaron T. Vanscoik, 19, (left) pleaded guilty to residential burglary, second-degree assault and second-degree robbery in a plea agreement that calls for prosecutors to recommend an exceptionally low sentence of credit for time served.

Vanscoik is to testify truthfully about the incident, including the roles of Levi Ehli and Brittany Cesario, according to the agreement.

 Ehli and Cesario are the only suspects who haven't resolved their charges in the case, which began when several people assaulted William Hans Dahlen, 52, in his home at 2922 E. Providence Ave. on May 11, 2010.

Vanscoik was allowed to leave jail after his plea agreement, but an arrest warrant was issued May 5 after he failed to maintain curfew and check in with the court as required.

Crime Stoppers also is offering a reward for tips that help arrest Dahlen (right), who's wanted on a material witness warrant to ensure his appearance at trial. Cesario's is set to begin May 23; Ehli's is scheduled for June 6. 

Dahlen is the ex-boyfriend of Lisa Jo Wareham, who told police she recruited Ehli (her son) and others to give Dahlen “a taste of his own bulls**t,” according to an affidavit.

“She said that no one was supposed to get hurt except “maybe a broken kneecap was OK,” according to the affidavit.

Wareham (left) was sentenced to 92 months in prison in March after pleading guilty to first-degree burglary, second-degree assault, second-degree robbery and first-degree theft.

Co-defendant Braiden M. Conner was sentenced to 51 months in prison after pleading guilty to burglary and assault charges; Tony A. Darling was sentenced to 30 years in prison in another case in which Vanscoik was a witness. Darling's sentencing was a plea deal to avoid a three-strikes life-in-prison sentence.

Vanscoik, 5-foot-7 and 200 pounds, last gave a home address in the 3900 block of East Eighth Avenue.

Dahlen, 5-foot-5 and 200 pounds, last gave an address in the 1800 block of East Rockwell Avenue.

Anyone with information on their current locations is asked to call at 1-800-222-TIPS or submit tips online. Tipsters don't have to leave their name to collect a reward but should leave a code name or number.

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