Mayor enters guilty plea as criminal defense strategy

Residents of Springfield, Louisiana have been following the federal criminal case of that city's mayor since 2012, when he and the city's police chief were indicted on charges related to the alleged cover-up of a drunk-driving ticket. Mayor Charles Martin was set to begin trial in the matter this month, but instead choose to enter a guilty plea. He has also resigned his position with the city, leaving a mayoral term that would have remained in place until the summer of 2017. The decision to accept a plea deal is often part of a complex criminal defense strategy.

The charges resulted from a series of events that began with a 2011 traffic stop, during which a woman was suspected of DWI. She submitted to breath analysis, the results of which suggested a blood alcohol count that was more than twice the state's legal limit. The mayor was accused of asking the police chief to have the woman's DWI charge reduced to the lesser charge of reckless driving. The police chief instructed the arresting officer to do so, and that officer reduced the charges out of fear that there might be some form of retaliation if he refused.

Both the mayor and police chief were indicted on felony charges of obstruction of justice, as well as conspiracy to obstruct justice, injury of public records and conspiracy to injure those same records. The police chief previously accepted a plea deal and admitted guilt on a lesser charge of criminal mischief. The mayor accepted the same deal, which will allow him to avoid a trial in the matter.

As part of the plea agreement, the Springfield mayor will step down from his publicly elected position within 90 days. He was given that grace period so that he could help complete a water project that is already underway. He will also spend two years on probation, and will be responsible for paying all court fees and serving 32 hours of community service. After one year's time, he may approach the court and ask for expungement. While this criminal defense strategy has led to the loss of his mayoral position in Louisiana, he will be able to avoid the risk of jail time or excessive fines.   

Source: kplctv.com, "Springfield mayor pleads guilty to criminal mischief in lieu of trial on felony charges", Kiran Chawla, June 15, 2015

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