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NFL Combine Football

Wyoming defensive lineman Carl Granderson runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine March 3 in Indianapolis. 

LARAMIE — The attorney for former Wyoming football player Carl Granderson has called into question the practices of the judge who rejected a plea deal and instead sentenced Granderson to jail time last month, calling the decision “manifest injustice.”

Granderson has been held at the Albany County Detention Center since July 11, when Albany County District Judge Tori Kricken sentenced the New Orleans Saints signee to six months in jail after he pleaded no contest to one count of unlawful contact and one count of sexual battery. The charges stemmed from an incident involving two female UW students that occurred at his off-campus apartment in November.

In addition to appealing the case to the Wyoming Supreme Court, Laramie-based lawyer Megan Goetz filed a motion on her client’s behalf to allow Granderson to withdraw his pleas and requested the court vacate his sentence and grant him a new trial. In a memorandum to the court filed this week, Goetz argued Granderson’s pleas “were not knowing and voluntary under the circumstances” and that Kricken failed to comply with state law when she rejected the terms of a plea deal the defense and the prosecution agreed to prior to the July 11 sentencing proceedings, during which Granderson changed his not-guilty pleas.

The victims, who identified themselves only as A.A. and D.H. in court, said as part of statements made during the proceedings they didn’t agree with the terms of the plea deal and thought Granderson was going to plead guilty. Goetz said in the memorandum the victims were aware of and agreed to the terms of the plea agreement and that Granderson wouldn’t have changed his plea had he known either of them disapproved.

“Having not had this critical information for which the judge apparently used and relied upon when sentencing the defendant so harshly constituted defendant unknowingly and not voluntarily making his pleas,” Goetz wrote. “Manifest injustice has occurred in this case. The defendant should not be the victim of procedural and ethical injustice.”

Goetz also referred to a phone call Kricken made shortly before the sentencing proceedings to Granderson’s therapist, Martha Nesslinger, who was called to testify at a motion hearing Monday along with Granderson’s agent, Patrick Collins. According to the memorandum, Nesslinger testified that Kricken asked her if she had received information about any other inappropriate sexual encounters Granderson may have had and answered that she did not.

“The judge did not have this conversation with either party nor put the fact that the ex parte call occurred or the information learned in the call on the record,” Goetz wrote. “The information gained by the judge in her independent investigation in and of itself warrants a withdrawal of defendant’s pleas.”

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Further proceedings in the case have been assigned to Gillette-area district court judge John Perry, according to court documents. Meanwhile, Granderson, who signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent in April, was placed on the reserve/did-not-report list when he didn’t show up in Louisiana for training camp last month.

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The Saints informed Granderson and his representation that his guaranteed salary of $70,000 was voided because of that breach. According to a transcript of Collins’ testimony, the designation keeps Granderson on the team and also gives the Saints the option to add him back to the active roster.

“Defendant respectfully requests that the information provided to the court by Nesslinger, Collins and defendant is new information not available previously to the judge and, within the totality of these circumstances, sufficient grounds to justify a modification and/or reduction in his sentence,” Goetz wrote.

Through prosecuting attorney Benjamin Harwich, the state has asked the court to deny Granderson’s motion to withdraw his pleas and reconsider sentencing. Harwich argued Granderson was advised the plea agreement was not binding on the court, according to court documents. He also argued there is “no indication” that the victims’ consent was included as a term of the plea deal.

“Victims are free to agree with a plea agreement, disagree or change their minds,” Harwich wrote. “The case at hand was not exceptional. The victims exercised their rights under law and the plea agreement to express their opinions as to the plea disposition.”

A district court clerk told the Star-Tribune the motion had not been ruled on as of Wednesday afternoon.

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Follow UW athletics beat writer Davis Potter on Twitter at @DavisEPotter

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College Sports Reporter

Davis Potter is the University of Wyoming athletics reporter. An Alabama native and 2011 Auburn University graduate, Potter joined the Star-Tribune in 2018 after five years covering Ole Miss and the Southeastern Conference. He lives in Laramie.

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