Guilty pleas have been vacated for Jon C. Vasilacopulos, accused in a diamond-investment scheme prosecutors said may have defrauded 3,200 investors of $12.5 million.
The Utah Supreme Court has refused to consider the Utah attorney general's appeal of a Utah Court of Appeals decision last June that vacated the guilty pleas and ordered a new trial.Vasilacopulos pleaded guilty in 1984 to one second-degree count and two third-degree counts of theft by deception, and the state dropped 17 other felony counts stemming from the scheme in which prosecutors said the same diamonds were sold over and over to different buyers.
Before sentencing, Vasilacopulos disappeared. He was captured in California in August 1985 and was then sentenced by 3rd District Judge Homer Wilkinson to two zero-to-five-year sentences and one one-to-15-year sentence, the sentences to run consecutively. The state Board of Pardons scheduled a parole date for Aug. 9, 1994.
The Court of Appeals found that when Vasilacopulos entered the guilty pleas, he did not understand that he could receive consecutive prison sentences for each of the three counts.
The three-judge appellate panel, headed by Judge Russell Bench, ruled that when a defendant enters into a plea-bargain agreement, the court has the burden of making sure he understands what rights he is giving up and what consequences he could face.
When Vasilacopulos entered his plea, the court was careful to make sure he understood he was waiving his right to a trial, his right to confront witnesses against him, and his right to appeal to a higher court.
But the court did not make sure Vasilacopulos understood he could receive consecutive sentences, meaning a longer stay in prison, the appeals panel said.