Flip answers prod Stamford judge to throw out guilty pleas
STAMFORD — A Stamford judge threw out a defendant’s guilty pleas to drug and gun charges after the Ansonia man gave flip answers to questions during a court hearing Friday, with the judge implying that the prison sentence would not be long enough.
After spending a year behind bars, Dashawn Johnson, 19, and his attorney, Benjamin Aponte, had seemingly worked out a deal in the case in which Johnson was caught with a .38-caliber revolver while doing a drug deal with undercover Stamford police officers last October.
He was originally charged with being a felon in possession of a gun, stealing a firearm, possession of a controlled substance, possession of narcotics with intent to sell, second-degree larceny, illegal possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle, driving without a license and improper use of license plates.
But under a plea bargain was worked out in which Johnson would plead guilty only to being a felon with a gun and possession of narcotics with intent to sell, with the rest of the charges thrown out. Johnson would then go back to prison to serve out a five-year sentence.
When Johnson appeared in front of Judge Gary White, the plea deal appeared likely to happen. After Johnson smoothly made his guilty pleas to the charges, White began canvassing Johnson, asking him the usual questions about whether he understood what he was doing and that he was giving up his right to a trial.
Johnson, who has already been convicted of criminal possession of a firearm, seemed relaxed. When he replied with a “yeah” to White’s first question, the judge corrected him, telling him he wanted “yes” or “no” answers only. Johnson replied “yes” to that question. Then it happened again, with Johnson saying “yeah,” White repeating himself and Johnson acquiescing and answering “yes.”
But when Johnson let a “yeah” slip for the third time, White said, “Vacate the guilty pleas.”
He then told Johnson that he was continuing the hearing for his pleas for another date. White said that because of Johnson’s “attitude,” he would be reconsidering the sentence and whether five years in prison was appropriate for the offenses. White also mentioned that the fentanyl Johnson was allegedly in possession of could have killed out a lot of people.
Aponte declined to comment on the court hearing. White scheduled Johnson to return to court on Nov. 18.