A Barnwell man is reconsidering a decision to plead guilty to federal drug and gun charges after he discovered that his criminal past could mean a minimum of 15 years in prison on just one of the counts he is facing.
Julius Cuthbertson, 31, was set to plead guilty in U.S. District Court in Columbia on Thursday to charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine base and being a felon in possession of a firearm.
However, he is reconsidering his options after a clash with his attorney, James P. Rogers.
The firearm charge could mean up to 10 years in prison; however, a felon with a history of three violent crimes faces an enhancement and a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of life in prison.
Cuthbertson has two convictions for assault and battery with intent to kill and, years before, one for assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.
Rogers told his client that the decade-old assault and battery charge would not be held against him and so Cuthbertson would not face the enhanced charge.
Rogers said that he expressed this as his reading of the law, as the final decision would be that of Chief Judge Margaret Seymour.
His client, however, was unaware that this was an opinion and not the letter of the law.
“My attorney told me that I had a 15-year-old prior that couldn’t be used against me at all,” Cuthbertson said. “He told me that it could not be used, I didn’t know of any ‘opinion.’”
As well as a possible 15 years for the gun charge, the defendant is also facing up to 20 years for the cocaine charge.
Jury selection for his trial is set for Tuesday. He has until then to decide whether to accept the plea deal or stand trial on all charges.