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home : latest news : local November 24, 2015

6/4/2013 8:28:00 AM
Defense attorney cries foul after state changes plea offer

Scott Orr
Special to the Tribune

PRESCOTT - Defense attorney John Sears railed against the Yavapai County Attorney's Office Monday, asserting that the prosecution in a client's case had yanked a plea agreement in the midst of negotiations and replaced it with one that came with a harsher penalty.

A deputy county attorney countered that a mistake in the original offer had to be corrected.

Preston Tisthammer, 24, of Prescott Valley was arrested on felony charges of robbery, burglary and possession of stolen property in November 2012 after he allegedly tried to rob a CVS drug store at Windsong and Highway 69 with a gun.

Tisthammer actually faced two cases against him, the armed robbery, for which he was charged with 13 counts, and an earlier case in which he was accused of stealing painkillers from a home. Tisthammer was charged with eight counts in that case.

At this point, Sears is not disputing those charges. In fact, he explained the circumstances of the case to Superior Court Judge Tina Ainley, saying Tisthammer became addicted to painkillers while serving in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.

A Hummer in which he was riding hit an IED, and "Preston pulled his buddy out of the vehicle and saved his life," Sears recounted. The rescue aggravated an old injury, and "the military gave (Tisthammer) fistfuls of painkillers."

Tisthammer became addicted and finally started seeking out street sources, was caught, and given a dishonorable discharge in lieu of a court marshal. That, Sears said, meant he could receive no veterans' benefits.

"The events in this case are the product of that addiction," Sears said. "He didn't become addicted to drugs for fun or to get high."

Sears said that in his 38-year career as an attorney, he had never seen the state pull a plea deal and replace it with one containing a harsher sentence in the midst of negotiations.

"And now, the State of Arizona, under all those circumstances, thinks he needs to go to prison for 7.5 years," he said, noting that he was told the prosecution may ask for even more time.

Deputy County Attorney Stephanie Willison said the prosecution had "adjusted the plea to comply with what it was originally supposed to have been.

"The plea offer is what it is," she said.

Ainley set a new court date for June 18 and told Willison that she would like to have Chief Deputy County Attorney Dennis McGrane present on that day for further discussion.

Related Stories:
• State won't change armed robbery plea deal
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