Man can’t withdraw his guilty plea to cyberstalking sheriff

COLUMBUS (AP) — A federal judge has rejected a man’s request to withdraw his guilty plea to a charge of harassing a sheriff for nearly 20 years via letters, emails and websites.

Judge Michael Watson, suggesting delay tactics were at work, said during a hearing Tuesday in Columbus that defendant William Young failed to give “a fair and just” reason for wanting to withdraw the plea he entered in January.

The judge said he’ll set a sentencing date soon for Young, who faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The judge read aloud passages from the transcript of a Jan. 5 hearing during which Young acknowledged to a magistrate judge that he understood the implications of the plea to one count of cyberstalking he was to enter that day, including giving up his right to withdraw the plea.

The only circumstances that would have allowed such an action were poor legal assistance, prosecutorial misconduct or a sentence outside the limits of that allowed by law. None of those factors was present, the judge said.

A federal criminal complaint said the harassment began in 1999 when Young, of Columbus, was arrested by a Delaware County officer on a menacing charge. Sheriff Russell Martin isn’t identified in court documents but confirmed he was the officer.

Investigators said the 54-year-old Young sent letters over the years to the officer’s wife, doctor and barber and to numerous other people.

April 18, Young said he was surprised to learn he was facing up to five years in prison even after pleading guilty and he wanted a trial. Government prosecutor Jessica Kim Tuesday accused him of flip-flopping, saying he acknowledged his guilt and responsibility in December during a hearing that examined whether he could be released while his case was pending.

“There’s no long-standing record here, your honor, of maintenance of innocence,” Kim said.

Young’s lawyer tried to take partial responsibility for the timing of Young’s request, saying he learned of his client’s desire to withdraw his plea on March 27 but it took him until April 18 to draft a motion.

Defense attorney Andrew Sanderson also said Young feels he was wronged by the victims in the case.

Young feels “he is the individual best positioned to present his version of the case to a judge and jury,” Sanderson said.

The judge didn’t buy it, saying March 27 was too long after the January guilty plea for Young to change his mind.