Man unsuccessful in bid to withdraw his guilty plea

The man was sentenced to prison for witness tampering.

A judge declined to let an Oak Harbor man sentenced to prison for witness tampering withdraw his guilty plea.

Brandon T. Gates, 47, was acting as his own attorney in July when he negotiated a plea bargain that settled two superior court cases and a probation violation in a municipal court case.

In a 2018 case, an Oak Harbor woman reported to police that Gates had repeatedly contacted her through social media in violation of a domestic violence restraining order, according to court documents.

Gates allegedly used the name “Butch Onetime” to contact the woman through Facebook.

Prosecutors charged Gates with three counts of violation of a court order.

The charges were felonies because Gates had been convicted of violating a no-contact order two or more times previously.

The charges were later amended to stalking.

In 2019, Gates again broke no-contact orders by calling a woman from the Island County Jail. The calls are all recorded and monitored.

Acting as his own attorney, Gates filed many hand-written motions in the cases, including several motions to dismiss, a motion for change of venue, a motion for a new stand-by attorney, motions alleging due process violations and a writ of mandamus.

Under the terms of the plea bargain, the prosecutor agreed to dismiss the earlier felony case against Gates and resolve a probation violation in district court in exchange for him pleading to tampering with a witness, a domestic violence crime.

Gates objected when his trial was delayed because of the COVID-19 emergency.

The prosecutor agreed to recommend a sentence of 29 months in prison and that he may serve the balance of his sentence with electronic home monitoring under the direction of the state Department of Corrections.

In court Monday, Gates argued that his due process and other rights were violated because the state will not allow him to serve his time through electronic home monitoring, as he claimed he was promised.

Gates also claimed he was coerced into taking the plea bargain by jail staff and that his stand-by attorney was ineffective.

Deputy Prosecutor Tamara Fundrella argued that the plea made it clear that electronic home monitoring was up to the discretion of the state.

Judge Vickie Churchill agreed that there was no “manifest injustice” to justify nullifying the guilty plea. She pointed out that a plea bargain is never a guarantee of a sentence but just a recommendation to a judge who has discretion within the standard sentencing range.

“I believe that you wanted a certain thing,” she said, referring to electronic home monitoring, “and you didn’t get it.”

Gates, who appeared in court over the phone, tried to continue arguing after the judge’s ruling but was told not to interrupt and that the hearing was over.

“For the record, I will be appealing your decision,” he told Churchill.

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