June 11, 2013 – Two Milwaukee police officers asked the court to impose a maximum sentence against a defendant who shot at them, injuring one. Recently, a state appeals court ruled that such requests did not violate the defendant’s plea agreement.
Under the plea deal, the state recommended 15 years in prison, 10 years of extended supervision if London Stewart pleaded guilty to recklessly endangering safety and felony gun possession. Other charges against Stewart were dismissed under the deal.
Two police officers were executing a no-knock search warrant when Stewart opened fire, injuring the arm of one police officer and nearly hitting the other.
At sentencing, the officers submitted “impact reports” and requested that Stewart get a maximum sentence, despite the state’s sentence recommendation. The sentencing court gave Stewart 25 years in prison, with 15 years extended supervision.
Stewart unsuccessfully filed a postconviction motion, arguing that the state breached the plea agreement when the officers asked the court to impose a harsher sentence.
In State v. Stewart, 2012AP1457 (June 11, 2013), a three-judge panel for the District I Wisconsin Court of Appeals upheld the circuit court’s sentencing decision.
The appeals court panel acknowledged that accused persons have a right to enforce plea agreements, and the state agreed to a sentencing recommendation. But the officers, who influenced the ultimate sentence, weren’t acting on behalf of the state.
“Because the officers were speaking in their capacity as victims, and not as agents of the State, the State did not breach the plea agreement, and Stewart’s constitutional right to the enforcement of the agreements was not violated,” Judge Kitty Brennan wrote.
The court distinguished a case in which an investigating detective requested a harsher sentence than what the state agreed to recommend. But in that case – State v. Matson, 2003 WI App 253, 268 Wis. 2d 725, 674 N.W.2d 51 – the detective wasn’t a victim.
“Here, however, the police officers were not speaking to the court as investigating officers, but as victims of a crime, which they have a right to do,” Judge Brennan wrote.