A Creston man accused of shooting his girlfriend to death during an argument asked a judge Tuesday if he could withdraw his plea because he felt “rushed” into entering an agreement with prosecutors.
Robert Kowalski, who initially pleaded not guilty, entered an Alford plea Jan. 12 to mitigated deliberate homicide in the March shooting death of 45-year-old Lorraine Kay Morin. In such a plea, the defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges that prosecutors have enough evidence to obtain a guilty verdict.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Kowalski said that after the Alford plea, defense attorneys Vicki Frazier and Gregory Hood “rushed” him into the plea deal. The agreement called for the dismissal of deliberate homicide charges and for the recommendation of 50 years in prison with 10 years suspended and no restrictions on his parole.
Kowalski also said Hood told him he could back out of the deal any time before his March 12 sentencing hearing.
“I didn’t have ample time,” he said. “I feel like I was pressured into it.”
But Flathead County Attorney Ed Corrigan, who is contesting the motion to void the deal, said Kowalski entered his plea knowingly and voluntarily.
“I see no reason why he should be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea under those circumstances,” Corrigan said.
Frazier and a third attorney now involved in the case, John Putikka, had no comment Tuesday. Hood attended the hearing via telephone.
District Judge Katherine Curtis is expected to rule on Kowalski’s request Friday.
Morin, a mother of six, was shot in the face during an alcohol-fueled argument on March 16 at her house near Columbia Falls. After the shooting, prosecutors said Kowalski fled to his house, where he was arrested the next day after a 31-hour armed standoff with authorities.
Extensive similarities between the Flathead County shooting and Kowalski’s 1996 shooting of another woman in Alaska has prompted cold-case prosecutors to review their case against him. Kowalski, who told investigators that the Alaska shooting was an accident, never was charged in the killing.
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