Wyoming Supreme Court rules on Cheyenne plea deal case

CHEYENNE – Prosecutors aren’t required to stand by a plea agreement if the alleged offender violates their bond conditions which are part of the plea agreement, according to a Wyoming Supreme Court opinion issued Monday.

The Supreme Court affirmed a decision out of Laramie County District Court with Judge Steven Sharpe presiding where the offender, Clifford Giles Springstead, was given a maximum sentence despite a plea agreement.

In the opinion, the high court examined the issue “Did Mr. Springstead’s breach of the plea agreement release the State from its obligation to recommend a reduced sentence?”

Springstead was originally charged with failure to register as a sex offender, and he negotiated a plea deal with prosecutors where the state would agree to recommend two to three years in prison suspended for two years of supervised probation in exchange for Springstead’s guilty plea.

Part of this plea agreement required Springstead to follow his bond conditions, which included not breaking the law except for minor traffic infractions. The plea agreement also stated Springstead couldn’t withdraw his guilty plea after he entered it.

After his change-of-plea hearing, and before his sentencing, Springstead was cited for criminal trespass. Prosecutors then filed a motion to revoke his bond, and a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.

But before his bond hearing, Springstead also received two more citations – one for criminal trespass and another for false reporting. At his bond hearing, prosecutors told the court they wouldn’t be “standing behind” the plea agreement. The state also filed a motion “Notice of State’s Intent to Deviate from Plea Agreement,” in which the state indicated it would be seeking a maximum sentence for Springstead of four to five years in prison.

Springstead never responded to the state’s motion, and at his sentencing, he didn’t argue the state was in breach of its plea agreement. Instead, he asked the court to ignore his citations, and he wasn’t “going to necessarily ask that the court follow (the original) recommendation.”

He asked the court to consider sentencing him to four-and-a-half to five years in prison suspended in favor of five years of probation. However, the court sentenced Springstead to four-and-a-half to five years in prison without probation.

In his appeal, Springstead said he didn’t breach the plea agreement because he hadn’t been found guilty of the citations. The Supreme Court rejected this argument because it found Springstead violated the plea agreement by receiving the citations in the first place, thus releasing the state from the plea agreement.

The Supreme Court also brought up that Springstead never raised the issue of prosecutors violating the plea agreement during the original sentencing hearing.

The high court also said it’s held that “bond violations breach a plea agreement, despite their being ‘unproven’ at the time of sentencing.”