Feb 14, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff WriterConcerns about her public defender led a woman charged in connection with a November mugging at Walmart to postpone finalizing a plea agreement.
District Court Judge Norman E. Young on Thursday gave Teisha Underwood until Feb. 18 to hire a private attorney.
If she does not, she must proceed with her current counsel. Young decided against assigning her a different public defender.
"I just don't think she's been fighting for me the best she can," Underwood, 22, of Lander, said of her attorney, Lori Lei Gorseth.
Prompted for specifics, however, Underwood said, "I'm not sure."
At the hearing, Young explained that the agreement Underwood, Gorseth and prosecutors had reached replaced her previous charges of faces one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery and one of aiding and abetting aggravated robbery. The new charge would be accessory before the fact to robbery.
Prosecutors allege Adrian Sixfeathers, 16, of St. Stephen's, robbed a 64-year-old woman of her purse in the Walmart parking lot on Nov. 10 using a air pistol resembling a handgun. Sixfeathers left the scene in a vehicle Underwood drove, and the defendant did not pull over when police attempted to stop her, according to an affidavit in Underwood's case.
Sixfeathers originally was charged with one count of aggravated robbery. Curtis Oldman, 27, of Lander, faces one count of conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery and one of accessory to aggravated robbery before the fact after, according to the affidavit, he was arrested fleeing the Underwood vehicle when she finally stopped. A fourth occupant of the vehicle was not charged.
Underwood's deal did not set sentencing limits aside from the statutory maximum and minimum for the new charge: zero to 10 years in prison. That penalty was a sharp drop from that of the original charges, a total of 10 to 50 years in prison.
"This is a fairly advantageous plea agreement," Young told Underwood.
Underwood said she wanted to take the deal and plead guilty right away but said her family would try to raise money for a private attorney.
Young was not comfortable with that plan, he said.
"That would foreclose opportunities that attorney would have available to them," he said.
A new attorney would only be able to make an argument about sentencing but would not be able to negotiate a plea agreement or take the case to trial.
Underwood on Feb. 18 will be able to have a private attorney start to represent her or stick with her current one, and she can decide whether to accept the plea agreement.
Young said he knew Gorseth to be an experienced attorney and did not see anything in Underwood's case file to make him doubt the Gorseth was handling the defendant's case poorly.
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