Tuesday, June 1, 2010

James E. Wappler - Repeat Sex Offender - 4 Times - doesn't like his Life Sentence

Wappler was previously convicted of sexual assaults at ages 14, 15 and 18



A four-time sex offender sentenced a year ago to life in prison was back in court Tuesday attempting to withdraw his plea and negate the sentence because he claims he did not understand the sentence he received was mandatory.

James E. Wappler, 37, of Sheboygan, was sentenced in May 2009 after being convicted of repeatedly molesting a 10-year-old girl. Because Wappler was previously convicted of sexual assaults at ages 14, 15 and 18, the offense triggered a two-strikes clause in state law that mandates the life term.

Wappler entered a no contest plea in January 2009, saying he didn’t want to put the victim through testifying at trial.

But Wappler, with new attorney David Leeper, now claims he didn’t know the plea condemned him to a certain life sentence. Leeper said Wappler, a high school dropout with below-average mental capacity, believed he could be sentenced to anywhere from 25 years to life.

“Mr. Wappler … did not know the judge had no choice but to sentence him to life in prison,” Leeper told Judge L. Edward Stengel during a motion hearing Tuesday morning.

Leeper has filed a motion to withdraw Wappler’s plea, which would send the process to where it was 18 months ago and require Wappler to enter a new plea agreement or go to trial. A hearing on the matter began Tuesday.

After Leeper spent three hours questioning Wappler’s former attorney, Stephen Seymour, the remainder of the hearing was delayed until July 9. Another former attorney of Wappler’s, George Limbeck, will testify then, as will Wappler and one of his relatives.

Leeper focused his arguments on a questionnaire Wappler signed prior to entering the plea that listed the life term as a maximum term. The questionnaire did not say the penalty was mandatory and also noted 25 years in prison as the minimum sentence.

Seymour, who went through the questionnaire with Wappler, said he wrote in the 25-year term because at that point he was seeking a psychosexual evaluation of Wappler and was hopeful that the results, if favorable, could allow him to convince the prosecution to drop the penalty enhancer mandating a life prison term. That would have put another enhancer in place mandating at least 25 years in prison.
“We had conversations that if he was convicted of the charge as it stood, he was facing mandatory life imprisonment,” Seymour said. “I believe he understood that. … This is not something we discussed just one time.”
Leeper also contended that Wappler’s lack of education and comprehension was not adequately addressed during his case and that Stengel didn’t specifically ask Wappler if he understood the elements of the offense and the fact that the life term was mandatory. Leeper also asserted the case was confusing to Wappler because of the variety of charges and penalty enhancers involved.

Wappler at sentencing had asked Stengel not to impose the life sentence, saying he could one day be a productive member of society.

"25% of all sex offenders re-offend within 15 years"
.........Sarah Tofte

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