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.
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 [s[statute] he said.
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 [o[of]hat was happening.”
The appellate court will issue its opinion in coming months.