WARSAW — Dennis Vandiver II’s attempt to hire his own attorney and take his case to a jury didn’t go as he wanted today, Thursday, Nov. 15, in Kosciusko Superior Court 1. Instead, his plea agreement was accepted and he was sentenced to 30 years in the Indiana Department of Corrections, with five years suspended. The final five years will be served on formal probation.
Vandiver, 42, 949 E. Sheridan St., Warsaw, had entered a guilty plea, via plea agreement, Oct. 16, to two counts of child molesting, level 1 felonies, but with a 25-year cap on incarceration and the sentences to run concurrently. His sentence will run consecutive to a level 6 felony case in Superior Court 3.
However, Nov. 9 he filed with the court, prosecution and his attorney a motion to withdraw his plea. Judge David Cates noted for the record the motion was made without Vandiver’s attorney’s signature. “I wrote him a letter to withdraw,” Vandiver stated.
Jay Rigdon, court appointed attorney for Vandiver, stated he had no basis for the motion and noted Vandiver had arguments he would like to make to the court.
Cates gave Vandiver the opportunity to testify and present evidence on his behalf. Instead, Vandiver voiced how he was trying to hire his own attorney, but he didn’t have time and how he wrote his attorney but “never got anything back. I don’t know the law as well as I should,” he stated. He stated he sent three copies of his request — one to the court, the prosecutor and his lawyer. “I got one from the court last night. It’s my life. I was trying to hire an attorney. I don’t believe my attorney is working for me. All I’m trying to do is get a fair shake. I don’t believe my attorney is doing it for me … 25 years is a long time. I’m looking at hiring my own attorney in another couple weeks. I’m not going anywhere. I’m stuck in the county jail.”
Chief Prosecuting Attorney Brad Voelz asked, and was granted, the opportunity to testify. Voelz spoke about the negotiations Rigdon had done on behalf of Vandiver. “He was looking at 60 years,” Voelz noted in regards to the advisory sentence on the charges. “Through negotiation efforts he got the two counts to run concurrent … further negotiations, tedious at times … reduce the cap to 30 executed and further negotiations reducing it further to dismiss a circuit court case and reached a settlement of 25 years.”
Additionally Voelz noted Vandiver had given police a full confession during the investigation and confessed under oath in October to the charges.
Without the plea agreement, Vandiver had the potential of serving 82 ½ years. “Twenty-five is a substantial benefit negotiated by his attorney,” Voelz said. He also stated Vandiver claimed he was coerced to enter the guilty plea. “There’s been no evidence of that today.”
“I’d say with the facts of the investigation presented to Rigdon, he did a hell of a job negotiating it down. If the court grants it to go to trial, the full confession goes to the jury. The 13-year-old victim was using harsh street drugs at the time and her memory may not be as clear as it once was.”
Cates told Vandiver he had five months to hire an attorney, which did not happen. “Your testimony in the plea matches the agreement, and your attorney negotiated a plea (for time served), less than the advisory.” Cates also noted Vandiver failed to present any evidence and denied the motion to withdraw the guilty plea.
Rigdon did speak on behalf of his client in an effort to protect his client. He stated the crime was a momentary instance of crossing the line rather than a pattern … even if sentenced to the maximum it is an opportunity to not spend the rest of his life in jail, drive a message home to him and show the mercy he deserves.”
However Vandiver appeared to not accept the negotiated terms of the plea agreement. “I figure it is my choice if I get a trial. What’s 40 vs. 25, I’d rather have my chance with a jury trial.”
After Cates issued the concurrent sentence, which also included registering as a sexual violent predator, Vandiver voiced his unhappiness with the results, stating he was not guilty and appeared as if he would take a swing at Voelz on his way to wait in the jury box before returning to the jail.
Vandiver was arrested in late June after police learned he had given a juvenile female methamphetamine and had sexual intercourse with her. The events had occurred the first part of May and the last part of May at Vandiver’s home. When questioned by police, Vandiver admitted to authorities he had given her methamphetamine and had sexual intercourse with the juvenile, knowing she was not an adult.