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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Plea deal reached in Lawson case

  • It appears a plea agreement has been reached in the case of a Leavenworth man whose 2009 conviction for criminal sodomy recently was overturned.
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  • It appears a plea agreement has been reached in the case of a Leavenworth man whose 2009 conviction for criminal sodomy recently was overturned.
    Lester E. Lawson appeared Friday in Leavenworth County District Court. This was his first court appearance since an April 5 Kansas Supreme Court decision that overturned his conviction and remanded the case back to District Court for a new trial.
    Lawson's attorney, James Colgan, said a resolution has been reached in the case. The terms of the plea agreement were not discussed in court Friday. An arraignment was scheduled for May 22, at which time Lawson is expected to enter a plea.
    Lawson, 44, was convicted in May 2009 of two counts of aggravated criminal sodomy of a child less than 14 years of age. He was accused of molesting a boy between August 2006 and September 2007 in Leavenworth. The boy was 11 and 12 years of age at the time.
    He received a life sentence as a result of what is known as Jessica's Law.
    The Kansas Supreme Court overturned the conviction in a unanimous decision. The court's decision focused on statements Lawson made to a police officer without his attorney being present.
    According to a factual overview in the court's decision, Lawson made his first District Court appearance in the case March 10, 2008.
    The district court's judges notes indicate a defense attorney was present on Lawson's behalf. And an application from Lawson for a court-appointed attorney was filed that same day.
    The next day, a member of the Leavenworth Police Department escorted Lawson from the County Jail to the Leavenworth police station, which is located in the same building.
    Lawson was advised of his Miranda rights and signed a waiver.
    The officer conducted a polygraph examination and interview. While speaking with the officer, Lawson reportedly admitted having sexual contact with the boy, according to the factual summary in the court's decision.
    Lawson later said he thought the officer, who was dressed in a coat and tie, was his court-appointed attorney. The officer said he didn't know Lawson had an attorney.
    Before the start of Lawson's trial, a hearing was held to determine the admissibility of evidence regarding the statements he made to the officer while his attorney was not present.
    The judge ruled the statements were admissible, but the prosecution was prevented from informing the jury they were obtained in connection with a polygraph examination.
    "We find that the district court erred in refusing to suppress the uncounseled statement Lawson made during the police-initiated interrogation after Lawson had invoked his right to the assistance of counsel," Kansas Supreme Court Justice Lee A. Johnson stated in the decision he wrote for the court.
    Page 2 of 2 - Speaking in court Friday, District Judge Gunnar Sundby called the Kansas Supreme Court decision a significant ruling.
    Colgan asked if a pre-sentencing investigation could be completed ahead of his client entering a plea.
    "I think we can do the plea and sentencing the same day," Colgan said.
    It appears there will be an amended complaint in the case, which means the charges likely will change.
    Sundby said he can't ask that an earlier pre-sentencing investigation be updated until it's known what the charges are. He scheduled for the arraignment for May 22.
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