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Prosecutors won’t challenge Satterfield’s plea deal

BY HAYLEY BRUCE | JANUARY 24, 2011 7:10 AM

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Johnson County prosecutors have decided not to challenge their plea bargain with former Hawkeye football player Abe Satterfield, even though they said his testimony deviated from their agreement.

Satterfield, 22, was originally charged with second- and third-degree sexual abuse and assault with intent to inflict serious injury following an incident in which he and his former teammate Cedric Everson, 21, were accused of sexually assaulting a female University of Iowa athlete more than three years ago.

In April 2010, Satterfield pleaded guilty to the non-sexual charge — which carries a punishment of up to two years in jail — as part of a plea bargain in exchange for his testimony against Everson. And although Satterfield took the stand Jan. 13, prosecutors said “he did not testify what he said he was going to testify.”

“We aren’t going to try to challenge [the agreement],” said Johnson County assistant prosecutor Anne Lahey. “We believe it wasn’t honored, but for closure for the victim, we won’t challenge it.”

David Siegel, a professor of law at New England Law Boston, said the decision is not uncommon, because a prosecutor is left with few options when a codefendant does not testify as expected.

“The prosecution really does not want to impeach the testifying codefendant with his or her testimony in the middle of the trial because that undermines his or her effectiveness as a witness,” Siegel said.

Additionally, the prosecution would need to look back at the proffer — a written statement of what is to be testified — and determine whether Satterfield’s testimony was inconsistent enough to be considered perjury, Siegel said. And to try the codefendant for perjury would require everyone involved in the original case to become involved, including the victim. The case would also need to be retried, Siegel said.

He said broken plea bargains often cause defendants to be less likely to accept a prosecutor’s agreements in the future.

According to court documents, the state suggested no jail time and a suspended sentence with no terms of probation for Satterfield, but a judge will have the decision about his punishment.

However, experts said judges consider the state’s sentencing recommendations with “great weight,” Siegel said, and it would be unusual for a judge to sentence differently.

Satterfield was scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 21, but he and his attorney did not show up because of a miscommunication on whether the sentencing would be handed down in person or through a written statement.

Satterfield’s sentencing has been continued to March 11, the court documents said, and his personal appearance is required unless he receives special permission.

And while there are still three civil lawsuits pending involving the October 2007 Hillcrest incident, it is unlikely the outcome of the criminal case will affect the civil suits, said University of Iowa criminal law Professor Margaret Raymond.

In July 2008, the state Board of Regents hired the Stolar Partnership, a third-party investigator, to look into the incident after the accuser’s mother contended that the UI had mishandled the case.

The Stolar Report placed blame on two UI administrators, who were terminated, and later filed separate wrongful termination and defamation lawsuits against the UI, university President Sally Mason, and the regents. The Iowa City Press-Citizen also filed a suit against the UI after it cited federal privacy laws to withhold documents related to the incident.

Everson is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 25; a jury found him guilty of simple assault last week.

Richard Friedman, professor of law at the University of Michigan, said the jury’s conviction could be introduced in the civil case to prove fact but nothing further.


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