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Rapist fails to convince judge to rescind his plea

YOUNGSTOWN — Shawn Unger of Smith Township tried to convince Judge R. Scott Krichbaum Wednesday that his attorney pressured him to plead guilty last month to raping a 5-year old and getting a 10-years-to-life prison sentence.

He said attorney Rhys Brendan Cartwright Jones “pushed me into taking this deal.”

But Unger now wants to rescind the plea and to go trial. He filed the request in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court without an attorney.

At the end of the lengthy hearing, during which Krichbaum repeatedly asked Unger to focus on the specific grounds under which a plea can be rescinded, the judge denied Unger’s request.

Krichbaum sentenced Unger, 35, in August to 10 years to life in prison, the second time Unger has been convicted of raping a Mahoning County 5-year-old. His other rape conviction was in 2011, when he was sentenced to seven years behind bars.

Unger tried to argue that the “manifest injustice” the law requires him to prove took place just before he entered his plea and during the plea hearing.

He said he and Cartwright Jones were in another part of the courthouse before the August hearing, and Unger “was trying to explain [to Cartwright Jones] the evidence I wanted presented and how I wanted it presented,” Unger said, adding that Cartwright Jones told him he “was in la-la land.”

The judge told Unger that attorneys are much better equipped by knowledge and experience than their clients. “Most defendants are not capable of defending themselves in a court of law,” the judge said.

The judge also reminded Unger that he had told the judge he was entering a “knowing and voluntary” guilty plea in the case.

“You are the guy who accepted the deal and said OK,” Krichbaum said.

“Why would I sign my life away? I’ve got the evidence to prove I’m not guilty of this,” Unger said.

“You signed the guilty form. It’s a pretty good indication you know you’re guilty,” the judge said.