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Carbon man wants to withdraw plea in fatal stabbing

Published October 05. 2009 02:55PM

A Carbon County man, who was sentenced up to 15 years in the stabbing death of a Lehighton man, wants to withdraw his guilty plea and go to trial.

Michael D. Mokshefski, 49, of Lehighton, previously entered a plea to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced by Senior Judge Richard W. Webb to serve seven and a half to 15 years in a state prison.

Mokshefski now wants to withdraw the plea claiming his counsel, Public Defender Atty. George T. Dydynsky, was ineffective and did not follow his wishes in the case.

Webb held a hearing Thursday afternoon on the petition to withdraw the plea. At a prior hearing Dydynsky was permitted to withdraw as counsel for Mokshefski stating the two could no longer get along and could not agree on the handling of the case.

Webb then appointed Atty. Kent D. Watkins, of St. Clair, to represent Mokshefski.

Mokshefski testified yesterday that he followed the instructions of Dydynsky in pleading guilty even though he didn't want to. He claimed that Dydynsky never went over the guilty plea colloquy which explains in details his rights in a criminal matter. The multi-page document requires a defendant to initial each question indicating he had read and understands it and also must sign it after completing it.

Mokshefski said he never read it, never had it read to him, but admitted his signature was on it. He claimed Dydynsky handed him the document and told him to sign it. He said he signed it because he "trusted his lawyer."

He also claimed Dydynsky told him he would get a sentence in the mitigated range of three to six years in prison.

District Attorney Gary F. Dobias questioned Mokshefski about the plea document and then questioned him about a presentence investigation (PSI) prepared by the adult probation office. Mokshefski claimed the PSI never talks about the crime he was charged with but Dobias read sections of the PIS that did address the crime.

Mokshefski also admitted he was not satisfied with the sentence and wanted prison less time.

Dydynsky was called by Dobias and said he absolutely read the guilty plea colloquy to Mokshefski. He said he read every question, asked if the defendant understood it, and then wrote "yes" or "no" where appropriate. He said after he wrote the yes or no response, Mokshefski initialed the question.

Dydynsky also denied ever telling Mokshefski that he would receive a three to six year sentence. He said he had Mokshefski sign a plea stipulation which indicated no agreement on a sentence and that any sentence imposed would be up to Webb.

Dydynsky also said he went over every element of the crime of voluntary manslaughter with Mokshefski.

Under questioning by Watkins, Dydynsky said he had Mokshefski examined by a psychiatrist and that the report was not complete at the time of sentencing. He said he requested a continuation of the sentencing proceeding because the report was not ready but Webb denied the request. However, he said Webb did agree to let Dydynsky file a petition for reconsideration if he felt the final report from the doctor would help is client.

Dydynsky said he planned on using the report at a reconsideration of sentence hearing because he felt the sentencing proceeding went favorably for Mokshefski because the victim's family accepted his apology.

Dydynsky said from the time Mokshefski entered the plea, on April 21, until the day of sentencing, July 6, his client did mention about withdrawin his plea. But Dydynsky added, "He never asked me to withdraw his plea."

Mokshefski was charged with the Aug. 14, 2006, stabbing death of George McClure along Alum St., in Lehighton, near the vcitim's parents' home. Mokshefski was charged with criminal homicide and related offenses.

Webb told Mokshefski that if the court allowed him to withdraw his plea he would have to face the homicide and all other charges that were filed in the case.

Webb took the matter under advisement and gave Dobias and Watkins 10 days to submit legal briefs supporting their positions.

A petition for reconsideration was deferred pending the decision on the withdrawal motion.

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