A McHenry County Il. judge denied a lawyer’s motion Friday asking to allow the withdraw of a guilty plea for a man currently serving 16 years in prison for his part in a “brutal” machete attack in 2011.
The response comes about a month after a new lawyer for Armando Ferral-Mujica argued that the only reason his client pled guilty about three years ago to his part in the attack was because he was told after a conference between his lawyer and the judge he’d be sentenced to between eight and 12 years in prison.
Following the ruling, Ferral-Mujica’s attorney Henry Sugden said he was “disappointed.” He said the denial of the motion takes from the purpose of a pre-trial conference.
Ferral-Mujica lived in McHenry at the time he and his brother Orlando Ferral-Mujica admitted they attacked Jesus Agaton, shooting him in the chest and “mutilating” him on the neck and head with a machete.
Agaton was attacked by the brothers at a McHenry apartment building. Authorities said Armando shot the victim, and Orlando “mutilated” him with a machete.
An attorney for Orlando Ferral-Mujica said in 2014 the attack stemmed from a family feud that started in their native Mexico. The victim and the brothers are distant cousins, the lawyer said.
Nearly three years into his prison sentence, Armando Ferral-Mujica was back in court with Sugden on a post-conviction petition.
Sugden requested the sentence be reduced or his guilty plea be withdrawn and a trial date be set.
Sugden argued that when Ferral-Mujica pleaded guilty in December of 2012 he did so only because he was told by his defense attorney Dan Hofmann – after a conference with Judge Gordon Graham and Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally – he’d be sentenced to between 8 and 12 years.
But a few months later, the now retired Graham sentenced him to 16.
With an interpreter at his side, Ferral-Mujica took the stand Wednesday and said he would not have pleaded guilty had he known the judge was going to sentence him to 16 years. He said he knew immediately as sheriff’s deputies took him out of the courtroom that he got more years than he was initially told.
Shortly after Hofmann filed for a post-conviction petition.
Sugden argued that Ferral-Mujica,was confused at the time of his initial sentencing. Had he known he would receive more than 12 years, “he never would have pleaded guilty to a blind plea.”
Hofmann took the stand Wednesday and said after leaving the conference it was his “perception” that Graham would sentence him between 8 and 12.
Kenneally also took the stand Wednesday and said he would have never agreed to such a sentencing range.
Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Zalud countered the defense saying there is no proof Ferral-Mujica didn’t understand his plea deal at the time nor does he not understand what is happening in court now.
At his 2013 sentencing “he had proper admonition, he had an interpreter.”
He said that in exchange for his guilty plea to aggravate battery with a fire arm, numerous more serious charges were dropped including two counts of attempted murder and aggravated battery with a machete.
In light of the lengthy sentence he could have received – up to 30 years in prison- 16 years for such a “brutal crime” is “more than reasonable, if not light.”
To which Sugden quickly responded “It’s not a good deal if he’d gone to trial and been found not guilty.”
Zalud said the facts of the crime have not changed and there is no “legal basis to grant a withdrawal or reduction.”
Months after Ferral-Mujica’s sentencing, his older brother Orlando Ferral-Mujica pleaded guilty to a blind plea. He was sentenced by Judge Sharon Prather to 16 years in prison.