Charles pleaded guilty in June 2013 to voluntary manslaughter while armed and conspiracy to commit a crime of violence in connection with Moore’s death. But after reading a series of letters from Charles, Judge Henry Greene explained that he was no longer convinced that Charles believed himself to be guilty.
“I don’t see how I can sentence a man for a minimum of five years for something he says he didn’t commit,” Judge Greene said.
More than 14 months since Charles’ plea, his former co-defendants Johnnie Harris and Stanley Moghalu were acquitted of charges in relation to Moore’s death. Prosecutors alleged that the three men, along with Anthony Hatton and Jekwan Smith, were linked by their loyalty to a group called “21st and Vietnam”.
In exchange for Charles’ plea, prosecutors originally agreed to dismiss his other charges and to request a prison sentence of seven and a half to 10 years. On Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Erin Lyons said that prosecutors would ask for a reduced sentence of five to seven and a half years in Charles’ case.
According to his letters to the court, Charles said he accepted the plea deal despite his innocence in order to eliminate the risk of losing in trial.
“I have not conspired to harm anyone in no way, form, or fashion,” Charles wrote in a letter dated Aug. 25, 2014. “Deep in my heart I know I should be home with my family, but my attorney and other attorneys convinced me that pleading guilty was the better option by the way things looked.”
Almost a year earlier, on Aug. 26, 2013, Charles wrote, “I am very remorseful for my misconduct. Sincerely from my heart to the victim’s family, also to my community for not continuing to display the good role model I am.”
AUSA Lyons told the court that it is “not the least bit surprising” that the defendant is having second thoughts, noting that “his friends” received partial acquittals and mistrials.
“As time goes on and things happen, I’m sure [Charles] has some regrets, as many defendants do,” Lyons said in court Wednesday.
Judge Greene added that Charles would be “opening himself up” if he withdrew his plea, saying he was “not sure how well [Charles] thought it through.”
Charles’ sentencing was rescheduled to Nov. 19 at 12:45 p.m., again before Judge Greene.