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Tuesday, October 3, 2000

By Craig Kojima, Star-Bulletin
Styran Rivera, left, confers yesterday with his attorney,
Dana Ishibashi. Rivera is charged with two counts of
second-degree murder as an accomplice in the
slayings of two men.

Waialua murder
suspect wants to
withdraw guilty plea

By Debra Barayuga

A Waialua man who pleaded guilty in January to two counts of second-degree murder as an accomplice in the deaths of two men wants to withdraw his plea.

Styran Rivera is expected to testify on his own behalf when a hearing on his request continues Oct. 10 before Circuit Judge Victoria Marks. He was facing life with the possibility of parole when sentenced Oct. 31.

Dana Ishibashi, Rivera's court-appointed attorney, said yesterday that his client pleaded guilty to the murder charges because he believed he would be serving no more than four years.

Rivera continues to maintain his innocence in the deaths of Steve Tozon and Paris France, despite his guilty plea. Tozon and France had been missing since 1997. The remains of France's body was recovered in a Waialua cane field in February.

The state opposes Rivera's motion, which comes eight months after his guilty plea.

"It's just another attempt by the defendant to manipulate the criminal justice process with completely false and outrageous allegations," said deputy prosecutor Marcus Sierra.

Ishibashi, who has been representing Rivera just since July, said his client did sign and read the plea agreement, but that the document did not contain sentencing provisions.

But the judge, in determining whether Rivera understood what he was doing when he pleaded guilty, did inform Rivera that he was facing life imprisonment with the possibility of parole, Ishibashi said.

Yesterday, attorney Jeff Arakaki, appointed to represent Rivera on unrelated federal drug charges, testified that in one of their discussions Rivera said he understood from his previous attorney, Peter Roberts, that he would be receiving a four-year prison term on the state charges.

"I told him I believed that was not realistic because he was charged with murder and he pleaded to murder," Arakaki said.

Under state law, second-degree murder is punishable by life with the possibility of parole.

Rivera said he "took the deal even though he was not guilty of the charges, because of what he said he was getting," Arakaki said.

Rocky Rivera, Styran Rivera's older brother, testified that attorney Roberts also told him his brother could be serving about four years for his cooperation, and "the most he'd do is 18 months."

Roberts, who is expected to testify next week, is expected to deny he made those statements.

In a declaration filed in court, Roberts said he could not conceive of any discussion with Rivera concerning a 4 1/2 year sentence.

The plea agreement between Rivera and the state did not spell out any sentencing provisions other than the state disclosing to the court and the parole board the extent of Rivera's cooperation with authorities, he said.

The agreement called for Rivera pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and revealing what he knew about the deaths of two other missing men.

In exchange, the state would drop charges of first-degree murder, hindering prosecution and a third second-degree murder charge. Had Rivera been convicted of first-degree murder, he would have been facing life without parole.

Attorney Michael Ostendorp, who was appointed to replace Roberts, withdrew as counsel on June 26 to avoid any conflict because Roberts had joined his staff. Ishibashi filed the motion to withdraw Rivera's guilty plea on Sept. 8.

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