Inmate asks court to cancel guilty plea
Last Modified: February 17. 2013 8:40AM
WILKES-BARRE – A man serving 20 to 40 years on charges he orchestrated a robbery while in jail that resulted in a deadly shooting in Pittston wants to withdraw his guilty plea and stand trial.
Sinard Ballard, 25, formerly of Philadelphia, made the request in post-conviction court papers filed recently in Luzerne County Court. Had he known he'd be given the lengthy prison sentence, Ballard said he would not have agreed to plead guilty to charges of third-degree murder and robbery.
Ballard was sentenced to the prison term in September 2010 after pleading guilty to charges stemming from the October 2007 shooting death of John Johnson inside a Pittston home.
Prosecutors alleged that Ballard, while jailed at the county prison on unrelated drug charges, planned a robbery of Jason Paglianite, who was accused by Ballard's then-girlfriend, Corissa Breznay, of stealing money and heroin.
Paglianite and Johnson were shot. Paglianite survived two gunshot wounds while Johnson later died at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center in Plains Township.
Prosecutors say Ballard instructed the shooter, Marcellus Thomas, 23, of Philadelphia, to rob Paglianite.
Thomas pleaded guilty in September 2009 and was sentenced in October 2010 to 30 to 60 years in prison.
Ballard said in his filing he is requesting to withdraw his guilty plea and stand trial because he had ineffective legal counsel.
Ballard said his attorneys, John Pike and David Lampman, failed to submit a request on behalf of Ballard to withdraw his guilty plea and the attorneys advised him he would receive no more than nine to 18 years in prison for his guilty plea.
The attorneys, Ballard wrote, had no "factual/evidentiary" basis which would put them in a position to reasonably allow or advise (Ballard) to enter into a plea of guilty when (Ballard) has consistently maintained his innocence plea."
Ballard says his guilty plea was made because he did not "want to be railroaded" and that it is not valid because his attorneys failed to request a plea withdrawal.
Senior Judge Chester Muroski said a hearing will be held on Dec. 13.