VALPARAISO | A Portage man sentenced to 25 years behind bars for repeatedly having sex with an underage girl is claiming his attorney never informed him before trial a plea agreement had been offered with a cap on the sentence of 20 years.
James Ross Doane, 53, who is challenging his 2007 conviction and 2008 sentence, testified Thursday that defense attorney Michael Lambert told him he had no choice but to take his case to trial.
Doane said had he known he had an option that would have prevented the young victim from having to testify at trial, he would have taken it.
Yet Doane acknowledged that his word was suspect after having first confessed to the crime, only to deny it during trial and then turn around and take responsibility again at sentencing.
Lambert took the stand Thursday and denied the allegations made against him.
"He did not want to plead guilty," he said.
Lambert, who sought the plea agreement in writing from prosecutors, said Doane never asked for it and showed no interest.
"Had he wanted to take that plea, I would have submitted it on his behalf," he said.
Porter County Deputy Prosecutor Cheryl Polarek testified she offered a plea agreement to Lambert at his request and that the potential prison term was capped at 20 years.
She said all other correspondence with Lambert involved the trial.
Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford was to take Doane's challenge under consideration and rule later.
Attorney Bryan Truitt, who represented Doane for free, said if the judge grants Doane's post conviction relief, prosecutors will be obligated to offer the plea agreement again.
Bradford made it known he is under no obligation to accept the agreement and that it is no guarantee the case will not end up back at trial.