Bradley Stewart Wagner, the veteran Anaheim police officer who targeted at least three illegal immigrants near Disneyland for violent sexual assaults while on duty, is nothing if not persistent.
This week, Wagner--who managed to stall his criminal case for more than five years--sent his defense lawyer to a California Court of Appeal in Santa Ana with hopes of overturning the generous four-year prison sentence he negotiated in a 2010 plea bargain.
Farah F. Azar, the most recent of four defense lawyers who've represented Wagner, told a three-justice panel that Superior Court Judge Walter P. Schwarm violated the dirty cop's constitutional rights by ignoring overwhelming evidence he had been exceptionally high on prescription drugs when he agreed to the plea deal.
"At the time of the pleas, he was under the influence," Azar said. "Courts must make sure when a defendant enters a plea, he knows what he [is] doing. . . . [Wagner had] consumed mind-altering drugs, [and] we submit there was an abuse of [the judge's] discretion [by not voiding the guilty plea]."
But Deputy Attorney General Karl T. Terp reminded the justices that Wagner, who is housed at the California Institution for Men in Chino, has repeatedly raised and lost the same argument. [See "Mr. Wagner (Finally) Goes to Prison," Dec. 22, 2010.] After the cop signed the deal that chopped seven years off the maximum potential prison punishment and acknowledged in writing that he wasn't under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Schwarm spoke one-on-one with him. In the judge's view, Wagner "appeared to be cognizant," Terp said.
Azar also blasted Jennifer Keller, Wagner's legal counsel at the time of the plea deal. She accused Keller, one of the county's most prominent defense lawyers, of professional misconduct for not adequately explaining to Wagner the consequences of being labeled a sexually violent predator, a designation that could keep keep him incarcerated beyond the four-year term. Keller's performance violated her "duty-bound" oath, according to Azar.
Terp said the appellate court should reject Wagner's complaints because both the judge and his own defense lawyer saw no signs of intoxication. He noted that the cop submitted a "fabricated" doctor's letter to bolster his intoxication claims and faked ignorance of criminal laws.
"It defies logic for Wagner, a veteran cop on the verge of retiring, to say he had no knowledge of the sexual violent predator [statute]," he said.
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With Wagner's wife scribbling circles in ink on a legal pad while sitting in the audience, Azar made one last attempt before Justice Kathleen O'Leary cut her off for rambling.
"He was ready to go to trial," she said. "He wanted a trial. Let's go to trial. That's all we're asking. My client is innocent. . . . He didn't have a reasonable understanding [of] what was happening."
The appellate court will issue its opinion in coming months.