Local News

Tuesday, Apr 08 2014 12:33 PM

Defendant who had been charged with torture asks to withdraw plea

BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

A defendant scheduled for sentencing Tuesday after pleading no contest to spousal abuse for allegedly tying up a woman and inflicting numerous injuries instead asked to withdraw his plea and accused his attorney and the prosecutor of colluding against him.

Kristopher William Lawless, 28, would be free within nine months if he sticks with the plea deal, in which prosecutors agreed to dismiss charges of torture and battery. A torture conviction can result in a life sentence.

But Lawless said he was coerced into taking the deal, and claimed Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman and prosecutor Kimberly Richardson worked together against him by threatening to add an extra charge of dissuading a witness if he didn't cooperate. He said Cadman violated his right to a speedy trial.

"That is extortion, your honor," Lawless told Judge Gary T. Friedman in Department 3 of Kern County Superior Court.

Cadman said in court he became aware of a conflict in Lawless' case on April 1. He declined further comment after court.

Richardson told the judge she never planned more charges against Lawless, and she strongly denied colluding with Cadman.

"It's very common, as the court knows, for counsel to discuss motions back and forth," she said.

Richardson noted that Cadman, in one of the first hearings in the case, repeatedly asked Lawless if he wanted a Marsden hearing, which is held when a defendant wants a change of attorney. Richardson said Lawless declined the hearing.

Friedman granted a motion allowing Cadman to withdraw as Lawless' attorney, and appointed Fred Gagliardini from The Kern County Bar Association's Indigent Defense Program. Lawless wanted to immediately withdraw his plea, but Friedman told him to take the next few days to think it over and talk to Gagliardini about his options.

The next hearing is scheduled for Friday.

The victim in the case suffered numerous significant injuries, according to Bakersfield police. Officers said they responded to a residence in the 7100 block of Firebaugh Street on Nov. 1, 2012 for a domestic violence report and interviewed the victim there.

The victim told police she and Lawless got in an argument, and he struck her over the head with a blunt object and then punched her until she lost consciousness.

Lawless then tied her up, according to the woman's statement to police. Officers said the woman told them Lawless threatened to kill her, and he carried out a series of abuses against her.

She managed to escape Lawless' residence in southeast Bakersfield and flagged down a motorist who took her to a friend's house. Police said they found evidence of the crime, and drugs, at Lawless' house.

In October, a jury acquitted Lawless of attempted murder and mayhem, and hung on charges including torture. The jury found him guilty of possession of drugs, possession of drug paraphernalia and hit-and-run resulting in property damage.

Lawless pleaded no contest to spousal abuse and dissuading a witness on March 10.

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