Sambursky wants to undo rape guilty pleas
BISMARCK -- Grand Forks serial rapist Paul Sambursky's original lawyer "actively misinformed" his client when he failed to warn him he'd have to serve 85 percent of his 30-year sentence before seeking parole, his current lawyer told the state Sup...
BISMARCK -- Grand Forks serial rapist Paul Sambursky's original lawyer "actively misinformed" his client when he failed to warn him he'd have to serve 85 percent of his 30-year sentence before seeking parole, his current lawyer told the state Supreme Court today.
For that, he deserves to have his case returned to the trial court level, argued public defender Rebecca Heigaard McGurran.
McGurran said attorney Lee Finstad was so ineffective that had Sambursky been told of the law, he would have rejected the plea agreement and gone to trial.
The law bars violent offenders a chance at parole until they have served 85 percent of the sentence. In Sambursky's case, that is 25 ½ years.
Sambursky pleaded guilty in January 2004 to five felony counts of gross sexual imposition and one misdemeanor disorderly conduct. The rapes happened on a University of North Dakota bike path, near campus and just south of Grand Forks in 2002 and 2003. He was a UND student at the time.
Before sentencing, Finstad had researched Sambursky's questions about how soon he might be eligible for parole, McGurran said. Once Finstad embarked on that mission, he owed Sambursky complete information, including warning of the 85-percent law, she said.
Finstad later testified he didn't know about the law, but he had told Sambursky that parole officials said no inmates have any particular rights to be considered for parole.
Grand Forks County Assistant State's Attorney David Jones' case alleges Finstad's advice, or lack of it, did not doom Sambursky's case. He noted that Sambursky has to convince the justices that Finstad was ineffective and also that if he hadn't been ineffective, the case would have had a different outcome.
The justices took the case under advisement and will issue a decision later.