Federal judge OKs plea withdrawal in Superior child porn caseMADISON — A federal judge has allowed a Superior man to withdraw his guilty plea to possessing child pornography and set a Jan. 7 trial date for the case.
By: By Kevin Murphy/For the Superior Telegram, Superior Telegram
MADISON — A federal judge has allowed a Superior man to withdraw his guilty plea to possessing child pornography and set a Jan. 7 trial date for the case.
Timothy Urbanski, 48, had pleaded guilty to the possession charge May 15, but by May 29 had filed a motion to withdraw his plea.
Urbanski claimed he didn’t know there were sexually explicit images of minors on the DVD authorities seized while searching his residence in July 2011.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Altman contested the plea withdraw and argued Urbanski admitted while questioned by District Judge Barbara Crabb to possessing a DVD in July 2011 that contained depictions of minors involved in sexually explicit conduct.
Urbanski, through a new attorney, argued he understood Crabb’s question referred to knowing if there were unlawful images on the DVD at the time of the plea hearing and not when his residence was searched.
The attorney supported Urbanski’s contention stating his client graduated last in his class from a Pine River, Minn., high school.
Crabb approved Urbanski’s motion in an Aug. 8 order writing:
“Had I recognized at the time that defendant had some questions about the charge or that he was not acknowledging that he knew of the contents as of July 26, 2011, I could have asked more questions to clarify the issue. Without that clarification, I cannot say that defendant’s plea was a knowing one, and I will allow him to withdraw it.”
It is uncommon for a federal judge to permit a defendant to withdraw a guilty after carefully questioning a defendant to learn if they understand the rights they are giving up and the elements of the crime pending against them, according to court observers.
A guilty plea timely made allows federal prosecutors to recommend to the court that the defendant has accepted responsibility for their offense and to recommend leniency at sentencing. The defendant forgoes the recommendation when they go to trial.
According to court documents:
During the search of Urbanski’s residence in July 20, 2011, Superior Police Detective Thomas Champaigne allegedly found nine computers, a hard drive, thumb drives, floppy discs and DVDs. Altman hasn’t disclosed the number of unlawful images the government allegedly has recovered from Urbanski, but if he is convicted, Crabb would factor in the number at sentencing.
At trial, the government will have to prove Urbanski knew what he unlawfully possessed and when he knew it, Crabb wrote.
If convicted, Urbanski faces maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and lifetime supervised release.
The Superior man is also facing 10 counts felony possession of child pornography in Douglas County Circuit Court.
His next court appearance in Douglas County is Sept. 10.