PRESCOTT – Robert Charles Waltermann, who pleaded guilty to charges including kidnapping and aggravated assault in January and was sentenced to 19.5 years in prison, was resentenced Tuesday after his attorney successfully argued that Waltermann’s previous lawyer had been ineffective and that the judge who sentenced him the first time did not have jurisdiction to do so.
However, the new judge also gave Waltermann a 19.5-year sentence.
The resentencing was a response to what can only be described as a legal morass that began in December of 2009 with Waltermann’s arrest after a domestic violence incident in which he struck his then-girlfriend and got into a physical fight with her father.
He was indicted on six counts.
Then, in June of 2010, Chino Valley Police arrested Waltermann, 52, after he used a 3-year-old girl as a human shield while trying to run from law enforcement, said Commander Mark Garcia, Chino Valley Police Department spokesman.
A homeowner called police after Waltermann, a woman and the young girl entered her home without permission through an unlocked door and asked for water, telling her they were being chased. Waltermann then ran away with the young girl, and dispatchers received a call about a man trying to break into another nearby home. When an officer cornered Waltermann, he held up the child in front of him telling the officer not to come any closer, Garcia said. Waltermann ran a short distance and put the child on the ground, and police restrained him.
Waltermann told police he had taken methamphetamine, began hallucinating and believed members of a skinhead gang were trying to harm him, Garcia said.
That incident resulted in a seven-count indictment.
Waltermann, through his attorney at the time, Jeffrey McNiece, filed a change of judge notice against Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Celé Hancock. That’s allowed, and does not require the defendant to state why he wants a new judge. In August, Judge William Kiger was assigned both cases.
In a motion filed by Waltermann’s current lawyer, Craig Williams, he claims that, in return for Waltermann’s guilty plea, the state offered to recommend all prison sentences from both cases be run concurrently; 15.75 years for one, and 3.75 for the other.
“There is no doubt that (Waltermann) was relying on the promised state-recommended concurrent sentences, for a total of 15.75 years, before he accepted the plea agreement,” Williams wrote.
During this time, McNiece was replaced by a new public defender, John Hollis.
Williams claims Hollis did not realize, but should have, that Hancock had been removed from the case.
On Jan. 1, 2011, Judge William Kiger retired from the bench, and Hancock was given Kiger’s caseload, including Waltermann’s. Neither the state nor the defense pointed out that she had previously been taken off the case. Hancock herself apparently didn’t remember, either.
Two days later, Waltermann appeared before Hancock for sentencing. The prosecution told Hancock it would no longer endorse a 15.75-year concurrent sentence due to information contained in the pre-sentencing report. Hollis said that Waltermann had signed the plea agreement, and knew what he might get.
“Of course, (Waltermann) had never agreed to those terms and told the court that he had not,” Williams wrote. “(Waltermann) was a little fuzzy on the facts, due to his psychiatric medication, but he remembered correctly that he had been told 15.75 years.”
Hancock told him he hadn’t been promised anything. “There weren’t any promises made,” she said. “You may have been under that impression.”
“I wasn’t promised. It was implied,” Waltermann replied.
He tried to withdraw from the plea, saying several times, according to the transcript, that he was having trouble concentrating because of the effects of Remeron, an antidepressant.
“Despite a good deal of conversation as to (Waltermann’s ) ability to understand the proceedings, Mr. Hollis did not object,” Williams argued.
Hancock refused to allow him to withdraw and sentenced him to 19.5 years in prison.
On Tuesday, Waltermann appeared before Judge Tina Ainley. She would not let Waltermann withdraw from the plea, either, saying it was entered into “knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily.”
Ainley offered him the options of vacating the sentence, which would have allowed her to impose her own sentence – “could be more, could be less,” she said – or to resentence him, meaning she would simply give him the same amount of time Hancock had imposed.
Deputy County Attorney Steve Sisneros observed that “Mr. Waltermann is aware there are no guarantees of what will happen in the next 15 minutes. He is being sentenced anew.”
Because attorney Williams said he was unsure what sentence Ainley would impose, and knowing it could well have been higher, they agreed to have her reconfirm the existing sentence.
Once again, Waltermann was given 15.75 years prison time for the kidnapping case from 2010, and 3.75 for the aggravated assault case from 2009, to be served consecutively, or 19.5 years total. He will receive credit for 512 days already served in the 2010 case and 180 days for the 2009 case.