Judge denies request to vacate plea agreement in fraud case
October 13, 2011
Changes in sentencing that will have some offenders serving prison time locally prompted the Nevada County District Attorney’s Office to push – unsuccessfully – to vacate a plea agreement for Lake of the Pines resident William Lawson Campbell.
Campbell pleaded no contest in August to 11 counts of obtaining money by false pretenses, after allegedly defrauding dozens of Nevada County residents of at least $650,000 between 2003 and 2009. Campbell faces a maximum of eight years in prison, although the court favors a sentence of five years and eight months.
But AB 109, which went into effect Oct. 1, “realigns” low-level felony offenders from prisons to locally run, community-based corrections programs. Nonserious, nonviolent, nonsex offenders now will serve local jail time only, with no state prison. The length of the sentence is the same, but there is no parole or probation when these offenders are released from jail.
Prosecutors, already pushing for the higher sentence of eight years, is unhappy Campbell will have the option of serving his time in county jail.
Campbell was arrested in October 2010 for allegedly selling pre-initial public offering shares in stock that did not exist. He took money, but never invested it, using it instead for personal gain. Campbell was doing business at Lawson Campbell Financial Services from 1996 to 2001, but was barred in May 2001 from doing business by the National Association of Securities Dealers.
Campbell allegedly sold shares of pre-IPO stock in pharmaceutical firm Sandoz for an arthritis drug, but Sandoz does not offer its own shares on the public stock exchange. He also allegedly sold shares in a rice growing investment and an herb farm in the Philippines that did not exist, as well as in real estate transactions.
A prosecutor asking for a plea agreement to be set aside is not typical, District Attorney Cliff Newell said.
“That’s usually done by the defense, when they’re unhappy with the results of the plea,” Newell said. “In this case, because of AB 109, we didn’t feel we were getting the benefit of the plea agreement. From the very beginning of the case, the deputy district attorney was insisting on a lengthy prison term. Obviously, the defense and the DA were not in agreement as to the length of the term, but all parties were talking about a prison sentence. (Now) an actual state prison sentence is potentially unavailable.”
In court Thursday, Superior Court Judge Candace Heidelberger denied Deputy District Attorney Jamie Hogenson’s request, but noted the sentence was still subject to the judge’s determination.
“The judge did what she should have done,” said Campbell’s attorney, Greg Klein.
Newell said his office still plans to request a prison term at sentencing, which was set for Nov. 30.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4229.