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Thursday, November 2, 2000

double murderer can’t
withdraw guilty plea

By Debra Barayuga

A state judge has denied a former prison guard's request to withdraw his guilty plea in two 1997 murders.

Styran Rivera faces two mandatory life-with-parole terms when sentenced Nov. 8. If the state seeks extended or consecutive sentencing and the court grants it, Rivera could be looking at life without parole.

It's a sentence he would have faced had he not reached a plea agreement with the state and been convicted of first-degree murder for the deaths of two men on the North Shore.

Rivera's current court-appointed counsel, Dana Ishibashi, said they intend to appeal.

Rivera sought to withdraw his guilty plea as an accomplice to the deaths of Steve Tozon and Paris France, saying his former attorney, Peter Roberts, had promised he would serve only 4-years in prison for the two murders.

Roberts was suspended from practicing law earlier this year on unrelated matters.

Despite maintaining his innocence, Rivera decided to plead guilty in January and allowed Roberts to continue representing him until his suspension.

Yesterday, Judge Victoria Marks yesterday found that although former defense counsel Peter Roberts provided "ineffective assistance of counsel," it did not rise to the level that it voided the statements Rivera made about his involvement in the murders during his change-of-plea hearing and before an Oahu grand jury.

Rivera had made sworn statements describing his involvement in planning the murders of Tozon and Tranquilino Bati, and being present when France was slain.

Ishibashi said Rivera is disappointed and they intend to appeal Marks' ruling based on her finding of ineffective counsel. "He believes he was railroaded by his attorney."

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