Curtis Allgier makes surprise guilty plea to murdering corrections officer Stephen Anderson
Laura Seitz, Laura Seitz, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — More than five years after gunning down a Utah Department of Corrections officer during an escape, Curtis Allgier pleaded guilty Wednesday.
In a move that surprised most people in the courtroom during what was expected to be a routine hearing, Allgier, 33, pleaded guilty to killing officer Stephen Anderson in 2007.
The plea came after years of legal delays, including unusual arguments and appeals such as: feeding the inmate more food to increase his weight, lawyer dismissals, attempts by Allgier to act as his own attorney, outbursts in court; fights to have a judge removed from the case; plans to cover his numerous tattoos with makeup during a trial and many others.
Allgier pleaded guilty to aggravated murder, disarming a peace officer, aggravated escape, aggravated robbery and possession of a dangerous weapon. He also pleaded no contest to three counts of attempted aggravated murder.
In exchange for his guilty pleas, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office took the death penalty off the table. When he is sentenced on Dec. 5, Allgier is expected to receive life without the possibility of parole.
"I just want to make very clear that the reason I'm doing it is so we can correct it. Yes I agree, yes I understand. But I want to make clear, that's the one reason I'm doing it," Allgier told the 3rd District Judge Paul Maughan before pleading guilty.
Many of Anderson's family members were in the courtroom for Wednesday's hearing. District Attorney Sim Gill said plea negotiations began about 3 ½ weeks ago.
Since taking office 18 months ago, Gill said his office had had "long discussions with the (Anderson) family about what their needs and concerns were" regarding the case. While there were others who had interests in the Allgier case, including the Salt Lake Police Department and members of the community who came into contact with Allgier that day on June 25, 2007, the ultimate decision was up to Anderson's widow, Millie Anderson, and her family.
"I volunteered for this job. That family did not volunteer to be victims. We talked about the decision, the difficulty of the decision and that this is a burden that the district attorney's office carries and the decision that we made. But it is a decision that is not inconsistent with their needs and desires to move forward to bring it to a closure," Gill said. "I made the decision that I thought was going to retrieve the measure of justice in this particular case."
Anderson family spokesman Mark Anderson, Stephen Anderson's cousin, said the family was OK with the plea deal if Gill was.
"I don't think that the family was really pushing for anything other than justice to be served. And in fact, there was really no time where we asked for a particular sentence for Mr. Allgier," he said.
While Anderson said the family didn't necessarily have a strong opinion about the death penalty, they were not looking forward to 20 to 25 more years of appeals and court proceedings if the death penalty had been pursued.
"This (plea deal) would allow the family to be able to reconcile their feelings without a long drawn-out trial — and without having it brought up again every time there was a hearing," he said.
Gill said any deal had to include Allgier pleading to all eight counts that he was charged with, rather than dismissing some of the charges as is common with many plea deals.
Allgier's attorney, Dusty Kawai, read a short hand-written letter from his client in which Allgier proclaimed his respect for the Anderson family, as well as certain officers and administrators at the Utah State Prison.
"He will say the rest of what he has to say at sentencing," Kawai said.
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