Judge says no to sex offender request to withdraw guilty plea

He received a hefty sentence for his crimes and now he wants to withdraw his guilty plea. Evidently sex offender Deke Duraso didn't expect the judge to give him twice what the prosecutor recommended,  but he did. Duraso wants to withdraw his guilty plea but Judge Clayton Davis says no.

Deke Duraso's sex crimes were particularly heinous according to according to First Assistant District Attorney Cynthia Killingsworth. But he was allowed to plead guilty to four counts of aggravated sex crimes and the state had agreed to recommended a 25 year sentence. "We kind of reluctantly agreed because in this case the victim is a teenager. The mother of the defendant was going to have to testify against her child because he had confessed to her and so we were trying to resolve it without a trial so they wouldn't have to do that. We went low on the recommendation. We recommended 25 years and the judge decided that wasn't enough."

In fact, Davis decided to double the recommendation and gave Duraso fifty years in prison. But Killingsworth says the sentence is within the judge's discretion. "The judge is the ultimate sentencing authority and he should be able to sentence how he wants and that's the law. If you were to allow everyone to withdraw a guilty plea because they weren't happy with the sentence, we'd never finish any case. One of the reasons that we make recommendations is so that we can finish for the victims and get that done."

When someone pleads guilty to a crime they're giving up a number of rights, such as the right to a trial. The prosecutor, the defense attorney and the judge all want to make sure the defendant understands what he's doing. Says Killingsworth, "I don't want somebody pleading guilty to a crime and not really understanding what's going on because that's not fair."

And in Duraso's case both sides agree his rights were clearly explained and were not violated. Still, the defense will look for other issues on which to base an appeal. Defense attorney Ralph Williams is expected to ask the Third Circuit Court of Appeal to review the case.

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