Danny Wing, the former Vader man sentenced to 34 years in prison for his part in killing three-year-old Jasper Henderling-Warner in 2014, has won an appeal allowing him to withdraw his 2015 guilty plea.
If he does seek a trial, however, he could end up spending even more time behind bars.
A State Court of Appeals ruling, made available Tuesday, agreed with Wing’s lawyer that a technicality made the plea deal invalid.
Wing had pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter and third-degree assault of a child. Wing admitted in Lewis County Superior Court to contributing to Jasper’s death and to hitting the boy in the mouth with an open palm. Official court documents also showed that Jasper had two missing front teeth, skin infections, trauma to his face, healing fractures and multiple scrapes over his body.
The child had been placed in the care of Wing and his wife, Brenda, by his mother, Nikki Warner, while she tried to find a job and quit using drugs.
Brenda Wing pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter with a domestic violence enhancement, third-degree assault of a child with a domestic violence enhancement, two counts of heroin possession and two counts of witness tampering. It does not appear that she has filed an appeal.
Danny Wing’s appeal had two parts. The first is based on the requirement in his plea agreement that he provide prosecutors “with truthful information” by taking two polygraph tests. If Wing failed the polygraphs — which he eventually did — the prosecution would be able to supplement the charges with additional “enhancements.”
Wing’s appeal claims that “aggravating factors” were added after his failed polygraph tests. The appeals court rejected this part of his appeal, saying the facts showed Wing understood the consequences of failing the lie detector tests.
However, the appellate court accepted the second part of Wing’s appeal. It contends that his offender score — a rating based on his criminal history — was improperly calculated. Wing’s offender score for his third-degree assault charge was calculated at a 6, rather than a 5.
Because acceptance of a guilty plea requires the defendant to be informed of “all the direct consequences of his plea,” including offender score, Wing’s plea can be considered involuntary, the appeals court ruled. This means he can withdraw the plea if he chooses to.
“If he does that, then we start all over again and we’ll try him,” Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead.
“The danger for him is if we start all over again, the state we can file charges we deem appropriate, including homicide by abuse,” Halstead said. If Wing is found guilty, his sentence could be much longer.
“He’s going to have to make that decision.”
Wing has 30 days to appeal the appeals court decision. If he doesn’t, his case will come back to the Lewis County prosecutor’s office likely sometime in April, Halstead said.
A call to Wing’s attorney, Lisa Tabbut, went unanswered Thursday.