Ch. 5: The offer is made: #badpleadeals by @antoinegoldet
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Rodney Roberts refused to enter the courtroom.
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From his hallway holding cell, he could hear the judge read the charges against him.
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Roberts entered his plea from the hallway, too: not guilty of raping a 17-year-old on South 18th Street in Newark, New Jersey, in May 1996. Bail was set at $50,000.
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A few weeks later, he was on the jail bus headed back to court. A new public defender introduced himself through the holding cell bars: Charles Martone.
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Roberts asked Martone the basis for the sexual assault charge. Martone asked him what kind of plea deal he would accept. “I’m not taking a deal; I’m not guilty,” Roberts responded.
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Martone returned 20 minutes later with bad news. He had just talked with the teenage rape victim. She knew Roberts from their Newark neighborhood, Roberts recalls Martone saying, and had identified him as her rapist in a photo lineup.
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She’s inside the courtroom, Martone added, ready to testify against you. Martone made Roberts’ choice clear: We work out this deal for you or you go to jail for the rest of your life.
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Roberts remembered the stern faces of the jury when another judge read a guilty verdict back in 1986, convicting him of sexual assault at 19. He felt he had lost the presumption of innocence.
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The Essex County public defender’s and prosecutor’s offices both declined to comment on Roberts’ case. But Georgia State University law professor Russell Covey, an expert on pleas, said this is a common quandary for past offenders.
. “Prosecutors can induce those with criminal records to enter guilty pleas in cases where the evidence would not be strong enough to convince a first-time offender to give up his right to trial,” Covey said.
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As Roberts understood the deal, the prosecutor would dismiss the sexual assault charge and downgrade the kidnapping charge.
. “My attorney said the judge would put on the record that no one got hurt,” he says. “That was the part that made me consider pleading guilty to a crime I didn’t commit.”
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Only later did he consider what he had lost. His brothers, sisters and parents would be so disappointed.
. “I felt,” he says, “
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  • revealnewsCh. 5: The offer is made: #badpleadeals by @antoinegoldet
    .

    Rodney Roberts refused to enter the courtroom.
    .

    From his hallway holding cell, he could hear the judge read the charges against him.
    .

    Roberts entered his plea from the hallway, too: not guilty of raping a 17-year-old on South 18th Street in Newark, New Jersey, in May 1996. Bail was set at $50,000.
    .

    A few weeks later, he was on the jail bus headed back to court. A new public defender introduced himself through the holding cell bars: Charles Martone.
    .

    Roberts asked Martone the basis for the sexual assault charge. Martone asked him what kind of plea deal he would accept. “I’m not taking a deal; I’m not guilty,” Roberts responded.
    .

    Martone returned 20 minutes later with bad news. He had just talked with the teenage rape victim. She knew Roberts from their Newark neighborhood, Roberts recalls Martone saying, and had identified him as her rapist in a photo lineup.
    .

    She’s inside the courtroom, Martone added, ready to testify against you. Martone made Roberts’ choice clear: We work out this deal for you or you go to jail for the rest of your life.
    .

    Roberts remembered the stern faces of the jury when another judge read a guilty verdict back in 1986, convicting him of sexual assault at 19. He felt he had lost the presumption of innocence.
    .

    The Essex County public defender’s and prosecutor’s offices both declined to comment on Roberts’ case. But Georgia State University law professor Russell Covey, an expert on pleas, said this is a common quandary for past offenders.
    . “Prosecutors can induce those with criminal records to enter guilty pleas in cases where the evidence would not be strong enough to convince a first-time offender to give up his right to trial,” Covey said.
    .

    As Roberts understood the deal, the prosecutor would dismiss the sexual assault charge and downgrade the kidnapping charge.
    . “My attorney said the judge would put on the record that no one got hurt,” he says. “That was the part that made me consider pleading guilty to a crime I didn’t commit.”
    .

    Only later did he consider what he had lost. His brothers, sisters and parents would be so disappointed.
    . “I felt,” he says, “

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