Did Judge Darigan Short-Circuit the Derderian Trials on His Own, or Did the Defense And the Attorney General Ask Him To?
Up until Friday, the quasi-official narrative of the disposition of the Derderian trial was that all sides wanted a plea deal, but could not agree on a sentence. Becoming frustrated with an impasse in the negotiations (and perhaps with some confusion within the Attorney General’s office), Judge Francis Darigan directly negotiated a sentence with the defendants, over the objection of the Attorney General, in return for a nolo contendre plea.
However, in his formal sentencing statement on Friday, despite taking “full and total responsibility for the acceptance of these pleas and for the sentences which will be imposed on the Defendants”, Judge Darigan described a process different from the quasi-official line. Here is the relevant part of Judge Darigan’s statement (via The Dan Yorke Show’s document archive)…
This Court was well aware that all parties desired to conclude these cases without a trial. As the structure of theses (sic) cases and the issues for the trial became clearer and more crystallized, the Court began to share this opinion.In legal parlance, “the parties” usually refers to both sides, the prosecution and the defense. If that is the meaning here, something different from a judge taking it upon himself to negotiate with the defense in order to resolve a case is being described. Instead, we have both sides — Attorney General and Defense — asking Judge Darigan to step in and end the case.
As the date for the trial approached, the Defendants clearly indicated to the Court and the Attorney General’s Office that they wished to change their pleas.
It was at this time that the parties asked the Court if it would accept a change in the pleas and impose sentences to which the State, if it wished, could object.
There is the qualifier — Judge Darigan says that the State retained a right to “object” even after they asked him to impose a sentence. Does that mean that when the Attorney General’s office asked Judge Darigan to impose a sentence, they thought they were retaining the right not to accept a deal (but if they were worried that they would not like the Judge’s decision, why ask the Judge to step in in the first place?) or does retaining the right to “object” simply mean that the AG’s office remained free to express displeasure with the sentences imposed by the Judge (but why does the AG’s office need the permission of the Judge to express their opinion after a case has been decided?).
Despite Judge Darigan’s attempt to lay out the provenance of this ruling in detail, it is still unclear whether he believed he was acting in concert with both parties or in concert with just the defense at the time he decided on a sentence.