NILES, Mich. - Ivery Cross, the former Niles City police officer that pleaded guilty to sex assault charges in April 2011, might have another crack at freedom.
Cross was back in court Thursday with a new lawyer trying to withdraw his guilty plea.
In May 2011 Cross was sentenced up to 15 years in prison. A taped police interview obtained by ABC 57 showed cross confessing to an assault on a 19-year-old man in a police department bathroom.
Both Cross’ new attorney Anastase Markou and Berrien County Prosecuting Attorney Steve Pierangeli argued for nearly three hours in a Niles courtroom Thursday. Markou tried to prove Cross and his family were getting bad advice from Cross’ ex-attorney Andrew Burch.
The defense called Cross and three of his family members to the stand. All were under the assumption that Cross would be getting a lesser sentence than the 15 year maximum sentence he was given. “My understanding, the way it was brought to me by everybody was (that I would) be getting between 36 and 71 months,” said Cross.
All witnesses called by the defense said Burch told them Cross would be eligible for early release from prison and would qualify for a “boot camp” program and another program designed for sex offenders lessening his prison time.
Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli argued back Cross knew the sentence range for the plea deal all along. Pierangeli brought up numerous on-record statements in the courtroom agreed to by Cross.
Burch was called to the stand and testified against Cross. “There’s no question he understood (the sentence range),” he said. Burch said he was doing the best for his client given a taped interview where Cross admitted to charges to police. “He gave a complete confession on tape,” testified Burch.
Burch said he never mentioned programs Cross would qualify for to lessen the sentence.
Burch said he thought a jury would have found cross guilty for most of the charges. Given the risk that Cross could have been found guilty on all charges and spent life in prison, a plea deal was his advice.
Markou said if the case went jury, he believed, the worst sentence Cross could get was 15 years.
The judge will decide whether to withdraw the plea in April.