Court rejects Taneytown man's bid to rescind guilty plea in drugs case Hernandez to seek sentence reduction


A Taneytown man will not be allowed to rescind the guilty plea that put him behind bars for the next 14 years as one of the first people charged in Carroll under the state's drug kingpin law.

Without comment, the Court of Special Appeals denied Fernando Hernandez's request to withdraw from the plea agreement he made last September.

By pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and possession with the intent to distribute cocaine, Hernandez got prosecutors to drop kingpin charges that could have sent him to state prison for a minimum of 20 years.

Hernandez' lawyers are scheduled to appear before Carroll Circuit Luke K. Burns Jr. on Wednesday to argue for a reduction in his sentence to less than five years.

In a written sentence modification motion filed since the higher -- court's decision, Stephen P. Bourexis and Judith S. Stainbrook asked Judge Burns to consider Hernandez' family in making his decision.

They also said Hernandez is a first-time offender.

The motion said Hernandez "sold cocaine for a relatively short period of time and there is no evidence that he sold drugs to anyone other than an undercover narcotics agent."

Judge Burns has not been swayed by Hernandez or his lawyers throughout this case. In January, he refused to allow the 30-year-old Colombian national to withdraw his guilty plea, saying that request was unfounded.

"You can't get out of a guilty plea just because you are unhappy with the sentence I gave you," he said during the earlier court proceedings.

Vacating a guilty plea in Maryland is extremely difficult, and can be granted only if it was coerced, resulted in an illegal sentence or it was entered on the advice of an incompetent attorney.

Mr. Bourexis and Ms. Stainbrook unsuccessfully argued in the earlier proceedings that Hernandez's plea was not voluntary.

"The conduct of the state's attorney created such a coercive atmosphere and had so thoroughly tainted the proceedings that his guilty plea was involuntary," the lawyers said in their motion to the Court of Special Appeals.

Hernandez, his wife, Bonnie, and his brother Henry, of Miami, Fla., were indicted by a county grand jury in January 1990 on charges tied to a Miami-to-Carroll cocaine ring.

State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman and the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force hailed the group's arrest under the kingpin law -- used when large amounts of drugs are involved -- because it was the first time the law was used in the county.

Had the trio been charged under the law, they could have received sentences of at least 20 years in jail. Bonnie Hernandez received a three-year suspended sentence for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and was placed on probation.

Henry Hernandez was convicted on a similar charge. He was given a 10-year suspended sentence for cooperating with state and federal drug officials.

Henry Hernandez has since been jailed and is awaiting deportation proceedings because of a federal policy to deport aliens convicted of felony drug offenses in this country.

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