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Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Confessed murderer
claims lawyer
misled him

By Pat Gee

A Waialua man who previously pleaded guilty as an accomplice to the murders of two men now says his former lawyer lied to him about serving only 4 1/2 years if he entered into a plea agreement.

Styran Rivera testified yesterday before Circuit Judge Victoria Marks that he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea because "all the things he told me, promised me, was all lies," referring to suspended attorney Peter Roberts.

Rivera repeatedly said Roberts kept assuring him he would only get 4 1/2 years for pleading guilty in January on two counts of second-degree murder and "I trusted him (Roberts) with my life. He was my friend. He was family."

Rivera, a former state prison guard, has maintained his innocence in the 1997 deaths of Steve Tozon and Paris France.

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

Roberts, who is scheduled to testify next week and is suspended on a matter unrelated to this case, has denied making any statements about a four-year sentence. The hearing will continue Nov. 1 at 1:30 p.m.

Sentencing for Rivera on his plea agreement was to have occurred Oct. 31, but will now be re-scheduled.

Questioned on whether he understood what he was agreeing to in court eight months ago, Rivera said he didn't ask the court to explain because "I didn't care what they said." He only kept in mind that Roberts had repeatedly assured him he would serve only 4 1/2 years.

"I put my trust in Mr. Roberts as a friend. He kept nodding his head" as the statements were read in court "and I just followed his motions," Rivera said.

"I don't know what I signed. I don't even read what he gave me to sign. I trusted him with my life," Rivera said.

As part of a plea agreement, Rivera pleaded guilty in exchange for prosecutors dropping a first-degree murder charge, hindering prosecution, and a third second-degree murder charge. The agreement also called for Rivera revealing what he knew about the crime.

Rivera's court-appointed attorney, Dana Ishibashi, filed the motion to withdraw the guilty plea on Sept. 8. Rivera was allegedly the head of a drug ring, ordered the killing of Tozon, and later agreed to kill France, who was a participant in the Tozon murder.

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