Tope tries to back out of his plea deal

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 31, 2003

Shawn Tope, 22, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to produce methamphetamine in exchange for cooperating with the prosecution of his brother, is back in jail. Judge James Broberg ordered him detained without bail Thursday. Tope’s attorney has entered a motion to withdraw the plea.

Tope and his brother Jason, 27, were arrested in November 2001 in the middle of meth production in a garage at 205 Giles Place, Albert Lea.

Shawn Tope entered his guilty plea in May 2002. The prosecutor withdrew three counts against him, including first-degree meth production with a maximum penalty of 40 years imprisonment, while Tope agreed to testify against his brother at trial.

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Tope was subsequently released to a chemical dependency treatment facility. But, he tested positive for marijuana in December, and for meth in October 2002 and January of this year.

In a hearing, Tope denied that he was using meth. Defense attorney Alexander McKinney insisted that Tope’s drug abuse is amendable. But Broberg said, &uot;I’ve seen the (treatment) programs are often unsuccessful. At present time, I do believe I have to hold him in jail.&uot;

Judge Broberg also ordered Tope to be transferred to the Meeker County Jail if it’s impossible to segregate Tope from his brother, who is still in the Freeborn County Jail. Freeborn County has been renting beds from the central Minnesota county to mitigate congestion in its jail.

Broberg thinks the transfer would be necessary even if the two defendants are placed in separate blocks. &uot;It’s naive to think there isn’t communication among inmates in some kind of fashion through somebody,&uot; he said.

While Assistant Attorney General Cheri Townsend pushed for Tope to be jailed, she tried not to abandon the plea agreement, even though it appears he no longer wants to testify against his brother. She filed a motion asking the court to grant immunity for Tope if he testifies in his brother’s trial.