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Nicholson can withdraw plea

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Shane Nicholson will be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea in a case involving former Silt police officer Michael Williams, but the case will not be dismissed.

Ninth District Judge T. Peter Craven made the ruling in a judicial order released Thursday.

“The defendant has seven days within which to notify the court that he wishes to withdraw his plea of guilty,” the order said.



Nicholson’s case, which involved suspected possession of methamphetamine, was the first of as many as 190 cases where a defendant’s guilty plea could be withdrawn because the 9th District Attorney’s office didn’t inform defense attorneys that Williams had a 1997 conviction for official misconduct in Summit County.

Craven ruled that it was unfair for Nicholson to plead guilty without the benefit of knowing about Williams’ past, but he stopped short of dismissing the case.



“The nondisclosure of the impeaching information in this case was not a deliberate effort to sabotage the criminal process or prejudice the defendant,” Craven wrote.

“Rather it was the result of a systems malfunction in the district attorney’s office, which the district attorney has taken comprehensive steps to correct,” he continued.

Ninth District Attorney Mac Myers called Craven’s ruling a “fair assessment from his perspective.”

Public defender Greg Greer, who filed the motion to withdraw a guilty plea for Nicholson and eight other defendants, said Craven’s order puts Nicholson’s case back at square one.

“I can’t overstate the importance of this ruling,” Greer said. “Our confidence in the fairness of the system had been seriously undermined and this ruling restores that confidence. . It puts us back in the position we should have been in, and that’s fair.”

Myers said he’s not yet sure how as many as 189 other cases involving Williams will be handled.

“It’s kind of on a case-by-case basis,” Myers said. “We’ll be sitting down and looking at them and deciding.”

Greer said he thinks Craven’s decision was “thoughtful and well-reasoned,” and he said Nicholson will withdraw his guilty plea.

“His plea is withdrawn, essentially,” he said.

It is still unclear if Thursday’s motion will apply to all other motions to withdraw pleas in cases involving Williams. Greer said the next move is up to Myers.

“They know the result of it. We can deal with this with 50 hearings or 190 hearings,” Greer said. “They can take heed from the court and handle these outstanding cases in an efficient manner.”

Craven’s decision means that Nicholson is still charged with possession of methamphetamine, but his entire case starts over.

“Now the attorney and client can evaluate the whole case . and make an appropriate decision on how the case should be handled,” public defender Jamie Roth said.

Myers said he hopes the strained relationship between the DA’s office and the public defender’s office will improve now that a judicial ruling has been made.

Roth agreed.

“It does matter. It’s important. Being able to rely on the professionalism of people on the other side is critical,” she said.

Greer surmised that more motions to withdraw guilty pleas will be filed as a result of Craven’s order.

“I think people were watching to see what happened with this one,” he said.

Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511

gmasse@postindependent.com


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