From the Charleston Gazette:
Note: If the woman is telling the truth, then bravo for the judge to immediately halt the hearing, as there is no basis for the plea and the lady is being railroaded. However, there may be other evidence that she is not telling the truth. For instance, there may be a prior statement given by the defendant. It is doubtful that her attorney would advise her to take this plea if there was no other evidence other than the fact that she actually mailed the package. But, if there is not, then she should not accept the plea. Defendants should never be forced to accept a plea even though they are innocent, just because a conviction is possible. – John H. Bryan, West Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney.
Crime details lacking, so judge rejects plea
By Andrew Clevenger
A plea hearing in federal court came to an abrupt end on Thursday, after a Mingo County woman accused of laundering drug money said she had no idea what was in a package she allegedly mailed.
Chief U.S. District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin asked Lorene Canterbury of Dingess to explain exactly what she did to constitute the crime of money laundering.
“I mailed a package from Naugatuck, West Virginia,” she said. The package, which she sent to Chicago, contained two books she bought at Books-A-Million and a manila envelope, she said.
When Goodwin asked her what was in the envelope, Canterbury said she didn’t know.
“Honestly, I can’t say, but I’m taking responsibility for it,” she replied. “I thought it was a T-shirt.”
Goodwin immediately halted the proceeding.
“This plea hearing is over,” he said. “I reject the plea.”
The judge then stood up and walked out of the courtroom.
Canterbury was charged via an information, which generally indicates a defendant is cooperating with authorities. An information cannot be filed without a defendant’s permission.
According to the information, Canterbury allegedly mailed $54,000 in cash on Sept. 17, 2003, for the purpose of laundering the proceeds of powder cocaine sales.
After the hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Hanks said the case was now back to square one, as if nothing had ever happened.
When plea deals are rejected by a judge, prosecutors can continue investigating cases and try to get an indictment from a grand jury, or lawyers for both sides can discuss another agreement, he said.
To contact staff writer Andrew Clevenger, use e-mail or call 348-1723.