Federal Judge Sandy Mattice has refused to accept a guilty plea and instead set the case for trial in a matter in which the defendant's attorney complained about the handling of the case by the prosecutor's office.
Judge Mattice set sentences for three defendants in a Lincoln County meth case, but rejected the plea for Shane Howell after attorney Kyle Headrick said he was not given full information in which to advise his client.
However, Judge Mattice said he was "surprised that you are surprised" by the way the case unfolded.
He and prosecutor Terra Bay said that is the way drug cases are normally handled.
Attorney Headrick said he was told his client was responsible for 75 grams of meth, then later learned that meth from other defendants would also be attributed to him - pushing up the sentencing range. He called it "manifestly unfair." He said, "I have contacted several other attorneys and none of them have had this happen to them."
Judge Mattice said of Howell, "I don't see why he deserves less time in prison. You're asking me to ignore the facts."
Attorney Headrick said he was not asking to withdraw the plea, but the judge said the case would go to the trial docket. In most instances, federal defendants can get much less time by entering into a plea deal than facing a jury.