Strohmeyer seeks trial, saying he was ''bullied'' into pleading guilty

LAS VEGAS - A man sentenced to life in prison for raping and murdering a 7-year-old girl in a casino restroom now wants to go to trial, saying he was ''bullied'' by prominent attorney Leslie Abramson into pleading guilty.

Jeremy Strohmeyer filed a petition in District Court asking that his guilty plea in the death of Sherrice Iverson be set aside and that he be allowed to stand trial.

Strohmeyer, now 21, claims he never would have pleaded guilty if it weren't for ''scare tactics, lies and appeals to guilt'' used by Abramson to coerce him into taking a plea bargain he never wanted.

The petition contends that after Abramson took a flat fee of $250,000 - whether the case was resolved at a trial or through a plea bargain - and she concluded it was financially more advantageous to push her client into a resolution rather than spend several weeks in a trial.

Abramson, a Los Angeles defense attorney, did not return a phone call from The Associated Press for comment.

Strohmeyer was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole Oct. 14, 1998, after pleading guilty to killing the girl in a restroom in the California-Nevada casino border community of Primm, Nev.

The case attracted nationwide attention, and prosecutors said Strohmeyer made three different confessions.

Strohmeyer's new attorney claimed in the petition for a new trial that he should be allowed to take his chances with a jury because he got poor legal advice to plead guilty.

A Jan. 10 hearing has been set on the petition, which was filed earlier this month.

Strohmeyer claims his confession was involuntary and based on ''erroneous advice'' from Abramson.

The petition notes that Strohmeyer ''was adamant and Ms. Abramson was fully aware that he did not want to plead guilty and was willing to risk the death penalty rather than do so.''

The plea came after a jury was selected and the trial was about to begin.

Strohmeyer alleges Abramson told him the lightest sentence would put him in prison for life and that ''the judge was a bad judge who would not give (Strohmeyer) a fair trial and that the jury was a terrible jury.''

Abramson's push for a guilty plea, the petition alleges, became a necessity because she didn't have a command of Nevada law and ''trial strategy was based on that ignorance of the law.''

Strohmeyer was told by Abramson, according to the legal papers, that even the lightest sentence from a jury would keep the defendant in prison for 75 years before eligibility for parole because the sentencing judge was ''required'' to run the terms consecutively.

In addition to Strohmeyer's confessions, there also were security videos from the Primm casino showing Strohmeyer playing with Sherrice Iverson, during the early morning hours while her father gambled, and then following her into a restroom where the murder occurred.

Clark County District Attorney Stewart Bell said he understands that after a year Strohmeyer may be unhappy with his fate, but ''prison is supposed to be punishment.''

''Severe crime deserves severe punishment,'' he said. ''This was a severe crime.''

Bell indicated Monday that even if Strohmeyer avoided the death penalty at a trial or even a conviction on murder charges, there still would be a likelihood he would be convicted of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a minor.

Both of those charges, Bell noted, carry the possibility of life prison terms without the possibility of parole.


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