A Beverly man's motion to change his guilty plea was denied Wednesday and he was sentenced to 30 days in jail and three years of community control.
Jason Whittaker, 34, of 22781 State Route 60, testified in a hearing that he felt pressured and confused when he agreed to plead guilty in June to a fourth-degree felony charge of possession of drugs and waived his right to a motion-to-suppress hearing. But after hearing his testimony, Washington County Common Pleas Judge Susan Boyer said he made the decision knowingly and with a full understanding of his rights.
"The only thing that has changed between now and the entry of this plea is the defendant has changed his mind," she said.
Whittaker was arrested in July of 2011 after agents of the Washington County Major Crimes Task Force recovered 17 grams of cocaine following the execution of a search warrant at his residence, according to attorneys. The basis for the warrant was Whittaker's encounter with an off-duty Marietta Police officer after he had taken the synthetic marijuana product K2, which he said "had messed me up."
According to his testimony Wednesday, Whittaker sought help from bystanders after exiting his truck in Marietta while feeling the effects of the drug. He also attempted to run and remove his clothes at one point. Eventually, he was handcuffed by a police officer and questioned.
Assistant Washington County Prosecutor Amy Graham asked if Whittaker voluntarily told the officer there was cocaine at his home. He said he had not.
"I told him I tried a substance called K2, which was legal at the time," he said.
Whittaker said he was not read his Miranda rights until he was later questioned at the jail, which he argued was a violation of his rights and the basis for his motion to suppress. But he said his previous attorney, Nancy Brum, advised him she could not win the motion, which led him to accept the plea deal on June 1.
"She said she couldn't win the motion. It put me on the spot," he said.
In exchange for the guilty plea, a third-degree felony charge of trafficking in drugs was dropped.
Graham suggested the motion to change his plea, which was filed Tuesday, was simply a stalling tactic. Whittaker responded, "absolutely not."
Under questioning, Whittaker said he believed Brum gave him her best advice, but after thinking about the matter following his plea, he felt he could still win the motion to suppress. That's why he approached the Washington County Public Defender's office about two weeks ago.
At the start of Wednesday's hearing, Boyer granted a motion for Brum to withdraw as Whittaker's attorney. Assistant Public Defender Shawna Landaker represented him instead.
Before pronouncing the sentence, Boyer asked Whittaker if he had anything to say.
"I made terrible choices. I regret what I did," he said. "I just want to prove to the court that I'm not going to cause any problems."
Boyer noted Whittaker had a history of drug use but that the crime with which he was charged was not violent. She sentenced him to 30 days in the county jail and three years of community control, including substance abuse treatment through L&P Services.