Machete attacker asks judge to reconsider, vacate plea

WOODSTOCK – A McHenry man who shot another man and attacked him with a machete has asked to withdraw his guilty plea and wants a judge to re-sentence him.

Armando Ferral-Mujica, 22, is serving 16 years for an aggravated battery with a firearm, Class X felony, conviction. His attorney Special Public Defender Henry Sugden says his client did not fully understand the plea agreement. Attorneys are at odds over what happened during a private conference with the judge.

Sugden did not represent Ferral-Mujica when he pleaded guilty in December 2012, but was appointed after previous defense attorney, Dan Hofmann, withdrew from the case.

Ferral-Mujica, prosecutors said, shot a man once in the chest near the heart. The bullet passed through the victim's chest and lodged in an arm, near the armpit. The gun jammed, at which point the victim was attacked with a machete. The man was struck in the head and the face, and one of his thumbs was nearly severed. He survived the Dec. 3, 2011, attack.

Attempted murder charges were dropped in exchange for Ferral-Mujica's guilty plea.

According to an affidavit filed by Hofmann shortly after the sentencing, a private conference was held with attorneys from both sides and Judge Gordon Graham, during which time the judge indicated he would sentence Ferral-Mujica to eight to 12 years in prison. Instead, at a Feb. 14 sentencing hearing, Graham gave him 16 years.

In court documents, Ferral-Mujica – who requires the assistance of a Spanish interpreter for court appearances – says he would not have pleaded guilty had he been aware that the judge would deviate from the recommended sentence.

"It seems clear there was – at the bare minimum – a misunderstanding by Mr. Mujica what the plea arrangement was," Sugden said at a hearing Thursday.

Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally says that Hofmann "misrepresented" the conference with the judge, and added that sentencing range was up to Graham.

"[Graham] stated that [he] was uncomfortable giving a definitive answer without knowing all the relevant facts and circumstances and would await sentencing before making a final decision," Kenneally wrote in court documents.

Judge Graham will issue a decision Oct. 24 on Ferral-Mujica's request.

Related attempted murder and aggravated battery charges against Ferral-Mujica's brother, Orlando, are pending.

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