No contest plea in fatal Milford school stabbing

Christopher Plaskon to be sentenced in June for murder of Maren Sanchez at Jonathan Law High School

Christopher Plaskon, seen here with his attorney Edward Gavin, appears in Superior Court in Milford, Conn. March 7, 2016. Plaskon pleaded no contest in the 2014 murder of classmate Maren Sanchez at Jonathan Law High School, in Milford. (Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticut Media/Pool Photo)

Christopher Plaskon, seen here with his attorney Edward Gavin, appears in Superior Court in Milford, Conn. March 7, 2016. Plaskon pleaded no contest in the 2014 murder of classmate Maren Sanchez at Jonathan Law High School, in Milford. (Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticut Media/Pool Photo)

Christopher Plaskon, charged with the stabbing death of fellow student Maren Sanchez in the hallway of Jonathan Law High School in Milford in April 2014, Monday entered a plea of nolo contendere at Milford Superior Court.

Under a no contest plea, the defendant neither accepts nor denies responsibility for the act, but agrees to accept the punishment.

Plaskon is due to return to court June 6, when he is scheduled to be sentenced to 25 years in prison. The maximum sentence for murder in Connecticut is 60 years, Judge John Ronan said during proceedings Monday morning.

With the plea, Plaskon’s attorney said he could be paroled and out of jail in 13 years.

Plaskon originally entered a plea of not guilty to a charge of murder, and his lawyers previously said they expected the plea would be based on one of three forms of an insanity defense.

After court Monday, Plaskon’s attorney Edward Gavin explained that under the plea agreement, Plaskon receives the minimum sentence and remains under the jurisdiction of the corrections department. If he been proven not guilty by reason of insanity, a psychiatric review board would have maintained jurisdiction over him and could have maintained custody for an indeterminate amount of time. With the plea, because of Plaskon’s age, he could be eligible for parole in 15 years — 13 when counting the two years he has already served at the Manson Youth Institute in Cheshire, Gavin said.

Gavin said Plaskon will likely remain at the Manson Youth Institute until he is 21 or 22 and then transferred to an adult facility.

If the case had gone to trial, it would have been presented to a three-judge panel, rather than a traditional jury, because Plaskon’s lawyers said they thought judges would be better equipped to understand issues surrounding mental illness.

Sources said Plaskon stabbed Maren in a stairwell at Jonathan Law High School on the morning of April 25, 2014, because she was not going to the prom with him. There have been subsequent reports that Plaskon heard voices, and that he had been struggling with mental health issues.

Also according to documents, a friend told police that Plaskon had implied he wanted to hurt Maren because he wanted to be more than just friends with her and he wanted to take her to the prom, but she was seeing someone else.

According to the friend, Plaskon said he “wouldn’t mind if [Maren] was dead or hit by a bus.”

However, Attorney Gavin countered those allegations outside the courtroom Monday, saying that Plaskon was psychotic at the time of the murder and that the act didn’t have any connection to the prom.

“It really has nothing to do with this,” Gavin said.

State’s Attorney Kevin Lawlor disagreed that the prom had nothing to do with Plaskon’s actions, saying that he would have presented evidence in a trial that a number of sources told investigators that Plaskon was upset because Maren was not attending the prom with him.

Plaskon’s parents told police during the investigation that their son had a “significant history dealing with mental health issues as a child.” He was treated on and off for several years, court documents state.

Plaskon’s parents also said their son had mood swings and possibly depression several months preceding the murder, documents state.

Lawlor said part of the reason for the plea agreement, as opposed to pursuing trial, was the fact that court cases have been been leaning toward more leniency to youthful offenders. That suggested to Lawlor that Plaskon would not have been sentenced at the maximum level if the case had gone to trial.

“This is an appropriate resolution based on legal and moral factors,” Lawlor said.

He said the plea was a compromise, and he believes that neither the Plaskon family nor the Sanchez family is completely satisfied with the sentence.

Anthony Bonadies, an attorney representing Maren’s father, Jose Sanchez, said his client needs time to absorb the news.

“Nothing is going to stop the pain of losing a child,” Bonadies said outside the courtroom, adding that the case against Plaskon “was a state forum” and that his client was a “bystander to the process.”

The Sanchez family is expected to submit a statement at the sentencing on June 6.

Plaskon is “absolutely” remorseful, Attorney Gavin said outside the courtroom.

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  • ari rottenberg

    “Under a no contest plea, the defendant neither accepts nor denies responsibility for the act, but agrees to accept the punishment”

    I wish that the criminal justice system would outlaw no contest pleas. Criminal prosecution already has the hallmarks of a search for justice being perverted into business transaction by the relative bargaining of each side. About the only integrity the system has left is that most cases are resolved by plea bargains in which defendants admit – under oath – the truth of the facts of their guilt. The survivors, who would have little solace, can at least be reassured that the people who hurt them will have to verbalize acts of evil. It’s often easier to do things than own up to them. I’m sure that many will complain about how today’s deal as a true fire sale for Plaskon – he gets to live out a life of luxury in juvenile detention until he’s 21, then spend as little as a decade in state prison with people who are no worse than he is, aside from the rapists, kidnappers, gang bangers and people who have committed more than one murder. If prosecutors were really so concerned about punishment without Plaskin having to own up to murder, then they should have refused all plea offers, and just gone to trial – a jury verdict would have been more expensive, but would also have achieved the same end of punishment w/o requiring Plaskon to admit guilt. The only difference is that a pronouncement of guilt would be issued by the jury verdict. In this case, the books on Sanchez’s murder are closed w/o anybody being held guilty for the crime.

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