A self-described “white-power skinhead” who killed a Utah Department of Corrections officer during a 2007 escape attempt has lost a bid to take back his plea of guilty to aggravated murder.
The Utah Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the denial of Curtis Michael Allgier’s motion to withdraw the plea, ruling that he made his request too late.
Allgier, now 38, avoided the possibility of a death sentence by striking a deal with prosecutors and pleading guilty to murder and other charges in the slaying of Officer Stephen Anderson. The killer — a member of the white-supremacy gang Aryan Empire Warriors, who has head-to-toe tattoos, including swastikas and the words "Skin Head" written across his forehead — was sentenced Dec. 5, 2012, to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
On Dec. 22, 2012, Allgier mailed a motion to 3rd District Court asking to withdraw his pleas, according to court records. Judge Paul Maughan denied the request, noting the Plea Withdrawal Statute requires that such a motion be made before a sentence is announced.
In his appeal to the Supreme Court, Allgier alleged he received ineffective assistance from his attorney when he entered the plea agreement and that the Plea Withdrawal Statute unconstitutionally deprived him of his right to appeal his criminal case.
The Supreme Court opinion, though, notes Allgier was told by Maughan when he pleaded guilty that he was waiving his right to a direct appeal of his conviction. The judge also explained the plea withdrawal deadline, the ruling says, and Allgier “said that he understood and that he didn’t require further explanation or clarification.”
The case might not be at an end — the ruling says that any claims Allgier might have alleging that his lawyer was ineffective or that his plea was not knowingly and voluntarily made can be pursued in 3rd District Court under the Post-Conviction Remedies Act (PCRA).
Writing for the court, Chief Justice Matthew Durrant said Allgier also “has the right to appeal rulings made on those claims.”
“In fact, the PCRA has long been the remedy for these types of claim,” Durrant wrote.
Joining in Durrant’s opinion were Associate Chief Justice Thomas Lee; Justice John Pearce; and Utah Court of Appeals Associate Presiding Judge Michele Christiansen, who sat in for Justice Deno Himonas after he recused himself from the case. Justice Christine Durham, who voted on the case before her retirement earlier this month, agreed with the result but disagreed with some of the ruling’s reasoning and wrote a concurring opinion.
Anderson, 60, was shot to death with his own gun on June 25, 2007, after he escorted Allgier from the state prison to the University of Utah Orthopaedic Center.
Without a pair of plastic flex-cuffs to use, Anderson removed Allgier’s metal handcuffs so that he could undergo an MRI scan of his lower back. Allgier, who was serving a sentence for burglary and forgery, managed to overpower the officer and shot him twice.
Allgier then hijacked an SUV outside the center and led police on a high-speed chase. He was captured at an Arby’s restaurant near 1700 South and Redwood Road, where he tried to kill two people, according to court records.
Allgier pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, disarming a police officer, aggravated escape, aggravated robbery and possession of a firearm by a restricted person. He also entered no-contest pleas — which are treated the same as guilty pleas at sentencing — to three counts of attempted aggravated murder.
In a written statement that he signed before entering his pleas on Oct. 3, 2012, Allgier said: “I understand that if I want to withdraw my guilty/no contest pleas, I must file a written motion to withdraw my pleas before I have been sentenced and final judgment has been entered. I will only be allowed to withdraw my pleas if I show good cause. I will not be allowed to withdraw my pleas after I have been sentenced for any reason.”
Allgier asserted he mailed his motion to withdraw to 3rd District Court and prosecutors Oct. 11, 2012, well before his Dec. 5, 2012, sentencing. However, the Supreme Court ruling says a review showed no record that the request was received at the court or that Allgier sent any legal mail from prison in October 2012.
Editor’s note: Jennifer Napier-Pearce, the wife of state Supreme Court Justice John Pearce, is the editor of The Salt Lake Tribune.