“I have two small children, and one of them is a special-needs child, and the thought of being away from them for any amount of time is terrifying.”
That is what former Carlisle County substitute teacher Kasey Warren told the court Tuesday during a hearing to determine whether her request to withdraw her guilty plea would be granted.
McCracken Circuit Judge Craig Clymer denied the motion, upholding Warren’s guilty plea on the basis that Warren’s change of heart was not a legal reason to vacate her agreement with the commonwealth.
Warren, 28, of Bardwell, was charged Aug. 15 with three counts of third-degree rape and three counts of third-degree sodomy, after the Kentucky State Police were tipped to allegations that Warren had had sex with two 16-year-old male students.
In November, against her attorney’s advice, Warren pleaded guilty to all the charges except for one sodomy charge, which was dismissed.
The commonwealth recommended Warren receive 1 1/2 years in prison for each count, all of which would run concurrently except for two counts of rape, which would run consecutively, for a total of three years in prison.
Shortly after pleading, Warren filed a motion to withdraw her plea, citing her inexperience with the criminal justice system and uncertainty as to what she should do.
In court Tuesday, Warren testified about her state of mind when she accepted the plea deal.
“When I entered the guilty plea, I had all sides trying to tell me what to do,” she said. “My parents told me to accept the guilty plea, my attorney’s partner David (Bundrick) told me to accept the plea and Will Kautz (Warren’s attorney) had told me to accept the plea right up until about a week before I accepted the plea, and then he changed his mind.
“I was unsure if I was going to accept the plea that day, because of the advice of my lawyer had sort of changed, and my thoughts on the whole situation were conflicted because it’s something I’m not familiar with.”
Kautz admitted that his advice had fluctuated in the weeks leading up to his client’s plea, stating that at first he thought accepting the deal would be better for Warren.
“Somewhere in that week or so before the plea was entered, I changed my mind,” he said, and he came to the conclusion that the commonwealth would have a difficult time proving the charges related to the second victim and that a jury would be gentler when recommending punishment.
“The fact is that Kasey was conflicted, very conflicted, at the time the plea was entered, and I’ve got something to do with that,” Kautz said.
Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Leigh Ann Dycus disagreed, arguing that when Warren entered her plea, she stated that she did so knowingly and after numerous consultations with her attorney.
“From the testimony today I don’t think mere second thoughts, especially in a sex offense case, are enough to withdraw that guilty plea,” Dycus said. “She testified that she knew the defenses available to her, she had arrangements for her children made, she entered the guilty plea and she told you in court that day that ‘the risks were just too great’ to go to trial.”
Dycus said she originally offered a deal that recommended a five-year sentence, but then she reduced the sentence to three years after further negotiation with Warren’s attorney and consultation with the victims’ parents.
If the case went to trial, Dycus said, Warren could face as much as 20 years in prison.
After hearing the arguments, Clymer denied the motion, saying Warren had several weeks to consider the commonwealth’s offer and her options before accepting the deal.
“She had about three weeks to consider the offer,” Clymer said. “Her being new to the system, or not being streetwise or court-wise, we have people all the time who are first-time offenders.”
Clymer also said Warren’s second thoughts don’t justify putting the victims through a trial.
“In my mind, she’s admitted guilt to these charges,” he said. “And to then withdraw it and force the victims to come forward and be identified as victims of rape and sodomy and testify in court, I don’t see it as justification to allow her to withdraw her guilty plea.”
Warren is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 9.