Rape Drug Guilty Plea: No Deal 

Rape Drug Guilty Plea: No Deal 
Posted by FoM on February 11, 2000 at 09:02:04 PT
By Jodi S. Cohen, The Detroit News
Source: Detroit News
   Wayne County's nationally watched GHB-death trial took an emotional turn Thursday when one of the four defendants made an unsuccessful bid to plead guilty to poisoning and manslaughter charges.   "After having discussed it with the court, my client at this time would like to take advantage and plead guilty to all the charges," said John Courtright, the attorney for Joshua Cole, 19, of Southgate. 
  There was no public explanation for why the trial began even though Courtright sought a guilty plea. Legal experts said it appears that a plea bargain went awry when attorneys could not agree on a recommended sentence. It is unusual for an agreement to break down after a defendant pleads guilty in open court, experts said. The attorneys and witnesses are under a gag order and therefore couldn't comment on the change in events.   The tense interruption came in the first day of Cole's trial. After Courtright's announcement, Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Douglas Baker asked to speak with the family of Samantha Reid, the 15-year-old girl who died after drinking a Mountain Dew laced with GHB last year. After meeting with the prosecutor, Samantha's father wiped away tears.   The trial is the nation's first prosecution involving a death from GHB, gamma hydroxybutyrate, a party drug that is gaining in popularity even as more young adults overdose and die from its effects.   Cole is charged with three counts of poisoning and manslaughter in last year's death of Reid and the near-death of her best friend, Melanie Sindone, now 16.   Prosecutors say four men acted together to put GHB into the girls' drinks and then not call an ambulance when they became sick. The poisoning charge carries a possible sentence of life in prison.   The jury, which has been instructed not to read or listen to reports about the case, was not in the courtroom when Courtright said his client wanted to plead guilty.   "What seems to be a possible explanation is the inability to reach an agreement concerning a recommended sentence," said Larry Dubin, a criminal law expert from the University of Detroit Mercy. "Perhaps the prosecution discussed these plea negotiations with the family of the victims and determined that certain conditions would not be agreeable."   Another expert said Wayne Circuit Judge Maggie Drake, who is presiding over the GHB case, may have participated in a "Cobbs agreement," which says that a judge can accept a guilty plea and give a recommended sentence based upon a preliminary evaluation of the case. The defendant can later withdraw the plea if the judge decides on a greater sentence.   "Cobbs is a legal umbrella that allows these negotiations to take place. It puts a stamp of approval on getting an up-front indication from the court on what the court is likely to do in the way of sentencing," said Tom Cranmer, a criminal defense attorney from Bloomfield Hills. Though prosecutors don't have a say in a Cobbs agreement, they can argue that a sentence is too lenient.    'Lambs led to slaughter'   Doug Baker, a Wayne County assistant prosecutor, said the evidence will show that Cole used GHB, or gamma hydroxybutyrate, to kill Samantha Reid of Rockwood.   "Evidence will show that Samantha Reid's death wasn't some act of God. ... The evidence will show she was killed -- and she was killed by Joshua Cole," Baker said. "They were lambs led to the slaughter. They thought they were going to one party, but they ended up at another."   But Cole's lawyer said his client spiked the drinks with what he thought was a harmless intoxicant kept in the refrigerator of another defendant, Erick Limmer, 26, who lived at the apartment in Grosse Ile where the party took place. The other two defendants are Daniel Brayman, 19, of Trenton and Nicholas Holtschlag, 18, of Brownstown Township.   Baker told the jury Thursday that the day after Samantha died, Cole told police that he put "two to three drops" of GHB into the girls' drinks, but later told police that he "poured" it in the drinks. Cole also told police that he tried to stop Samantha from "slamming" the Mountain Dew.   Cole also participated in smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol and taking GHB that Jan. 16 night and didn't have a clear memory of the events when he gave four statements to police, his attorney said.   "He was at the point of inebriation and isn't able to remember what is happening," Courtright said. "Everyone in the apartment had access to everything in that refrigerator."    Previous GHB use   But that wasn't the first time Cole had tried GHB, he told police, and he knew about its effects. "Someone put some in my drink before. ... I threw up all over the place and felt really drunk. ... I passed out," he said.   Baker said the comments show that Cole knew GHB could be a harmful substance. "He knew it could make you ill because he ... experienced it first-hand," he said.   Courtright, an Allen Park attorney, said the girls willingly took drugs that night.   Attorneys for the other three defendants have said their clients did not participate in or know that GHB was put into the girls' drinks.   Testimony will begin Monday in the trials of all four men. Cole's case will be heard by a separate jury because of the confessions he made to police, but most evidence will be heard before both juries.   DetroitPublished: February 11, 2000 Copyright 2000, The Detroit News CannabisNews Articles On GHB:Liquid G, Other Designer Drugs Becoming Popular Date-Rape Drug Series Kicks Off Bill Makes GHB A Controlled Substance
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