A Tucson man who ran over two motorcyle cops is trying to back out a plea agreement that guaranteed him at least 26.25 years in prison.
Jerome Birdow, 25, was scheduled to be sentenced last week, but he sent a last minute letter to Judge Howard Hantman essentially saying his attorney forced him to take the deal.
Judge Hantman said he had concerns about moving forward, even after assistant public defender Matthew Messmer said there was no legal basis for Birdow to back out of the deal and prosecutor Heather Siegele said she thought the appropriate time to discuss Messmer's representation of Birdow is after Birdow was sentenced.
Judge Hantman replaced Messmer with legal defender Vincent Frey and they were back in court this morning.
Nothing was said about Birdow's claims, but Judge Hantman scheduled a status hearing for Dec. 14.
On Jan. 4, Pima County Sheriff's Deputy Alvaro Arizpuro pulled over two drivers near Palo Verde and Golf Links roads, one for speeding and the other, Jerome Birdow, for running a red light. Deputy Guy Quaintance arrived to provide backup.
Deputy Arizpuru thought Birdow might have marijuana in his car and he told Deputy Quaintance, according to court documents.
Shortly thereafter, Birdow backed up 30 feet, pinned Deputy Quaintance between his motorcyle and the barrier on the side of the road. He then moved forward and hit Deputy Arizpuru, causing him to fly up onto his hood and then onto the road, court documents state.
Deputy Arizpuru remains on light duty and may have to take an early, forced medical retirement because of injuries caused to his leg, court documents state. One of the motorcycles was totaled and the other cost thousands of dollars to repair.
Birdow was caught in Texas days later.
Siegele wrote in her sentencing memorandum that an accident reconstructionist determined that Birdow could've fled the scene without hitting either one of the deputies. She also pointed out he pleaded guilty to attempted fleeing from a law enforcement vehicle in a 2009 case and fled from cops in September 2010 after selling an undercover officer cocaine (for the fifth time in four months). He wasn't arrested in the 2010 case until he ran over Deputies Arizpuru and Quaintance.
Birdow entered the plea agreement he's trying to get out of on Oct. 4. He pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated assault causing serious physical injury and leaving the scene after causing an accident resulting in serious physical injury. He also pleaded guilty to five counts of sale of a narcotic drug.
Under the terms of the plea, he's facing 26.25 to 45 years in prison.
According to a sentencing memorandum filed by Messmer, Birdow was introduced to drugs at 6 and was smoking pot daily by 14. Messmer wrote that Birdow's mom used drugs while pregnant with him, his dad was a drug dealer and his grandfather, who helped raise him, was physically abusive.
Messmer asked for the minimum sentence possible, saying the drugs hindered Birdow's development and it's difficult for him to make rational decisions in high-stress situations.