Judge rejects plea in vehicular homicide case
by Mindy Aguon
Guam - Ready to take full responsibility for the death of his 4-year-old daughter, Marco Nelson fully expected to plead guilty to vehicular homicide while intoxicated. But today's court hearing didn't go as expected.
For the last year and a half, Nelson has been behind bars charged with the death of his young daughter. In November 2012, while highly intoxicated, Nelson led police on a high speed chase and slammed into a concrete pole at the Barrigada tri-intersection. His 4-year-old daughter was not in a car seat and died. Nelson was scheduled to go to trial, but a plea offer that would allow Nelson to get out of jail after serving five years behind bars was just signed this week.
Today nelson appeared with his attorney, Gerald Gray, ready to plead guilty to vehicular homicide while intoxicated. Superior Court Judge James Canto however had concerns saying the plea wasn't in line with discussions he had with attorneys during a chamber conference held several weeks ago. "And there is a proposed plea agreement which is before the court which was signed by Mr. O'Mallan and Mr. Gray as well as Mr. Nelson, but it's far, far from the discussions we had at that chamber conference and I'm not sure if Mr. Nassis didn't give the word back to Mr. O'Mallan," he stated.
Gray said, "Your Honor, it's my understanding, I feel it is what we discussed at the chamber conference," to which the judge said, "Actually, it's not. The charge itself, yes, but not the range."
As we reported the proposed plea agreement recommended a sentence of between five and eight years. Nelson had agreed to participate in public service announcements in English and Chuukese warning about the dangers of driving under the influence. Judge Canto said, "The court's not going to accept the plea at this time. This is not what I expected, quite frankly."
Following the hearing, Attorney Gray said he was surprised with the judge's decision and said the case will likely go to trial. This means Nelson faces significantly more jail time if convicted by a jury. "I'm very saddened and disappointed that the judge didn't accept this plea agreement this poor man made a mistake," said Gray. "He accidentally caused the death of his own child. To me, that's punishment enough, so I can't understand why the court's taking this position."
Gray says he isn't sure if it is in his client's interest to consider another plea offer with a longer sentence. The court scheduled a pre-trial conference for February 18 with trial to begin on February 26.