Defendants ask to withdraw plea in murder-for-hire case

Posted: Thursday, December 12, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Two Anchorage defendants accused of trying to hire a hit man to kill a federal judge and prosecutor have asked a U.S. district judge to withdraw their guilty pleas.

Arnold W. Flowers and Sompong Khamsomphou were indicted in February on charges that they plotted hits on four people connected to an impending bank fraud case against them.

As part of an agreement with the government, they pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to kill a witness, conspiracy to kill an officer or employee of the United States and conspiracy to commit bank fraud.

But their new lawyers say their first attorneys gave them bad advice, according to arguments filed in U.S. District Court.

According to the indictment, Khamsomphou, a bank teller, and her boyfriend, Flowers, had been charged by a federal grand jury earlier in February with bank fraud. Soon after they were indicted, prosecutors say, Flowers and Khamsomphou agreed to pay $5,000 cash to an undercover federal agent to kill U.S. District Judge Russel Holland, assistant U.S. attorney Crandon Randell, witness Lisa Chanthaseng and her boyfriend.

They were indicted on the murder for hire plot shortly after.

In a motion filed Nov. 20, Flowers maintained that his first attorney did not give him statements made by a witness targeted in the murder-for-hire plot and a recorded conversation with the hit man.

Flowers, 27, also said assistant federal public defender Kevin McCoy inaccurately told him the U.S. attorney's office would not deport Khamsomphou to Laos if they pleaded guilty, the court documents said. The two are not legally married, but say their relationship is like a marriage.

If Flowers had known about the statements and more about Khamsomphou's immigration status, he would not have pleaded guilty, Flowers' latest attorney, Hugh Fleischer, said in the motion filed last month.

Reached Tuesday by the Anchorage Daily News, McCoy denied Flowers' allegations.

Khamsomphou said her lawyer also did not give her enough evidence about the case.

Attorney Herbert Pearce should have shown her a transcript of her conversation with the undercover agent, court documents filed Monday by her new attorney said.

Also, Pearce told her Flowers wanted to plead guilty, the motion says.

Khamsomphou's judgment also was clouded because she had given birth only three days before she signed the plea agreement June 4, attorney John Pharr says in arguments to set aside the plea. English also is her second language, so she did not understand many of the legal issues, Pharr said.

''She did not understand what she was signing, was scared of being deported and was pleading after her attorney had not conducted any investigation,'' Pharr wrote in his motion.

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