Attorneys fight to ‘correct’ long prison sentence

FORT WALTON BEACH — Had he accepted a plea agreement offered to him ahead of his 2017 trial, Aaron Wanless would in all likelihood be a free man today.

A Fort Lauderdale attorney has laid the blame for Wanless’ continued incarceration at the feet of the public defender who represented him. He filed a motion June 20 calling on Okaloosa County Circuit Court Judge William Stone to “vacate, set aside or correct” a sentence that, as it stands, would leave Wanless imprisoned until 2042.

Air Force veteran Aaron Wanless initially was sentenced to 48 years in prison for charges related to a confrontation with Okaloosa County sheriff's deputies in 2015. His sentence has since been reduced twice, and another effort is underway to lower it again.

Background on the case

Harsh sentences:Troubled vet sentenced to 48 years for shooting at lawmen

No way to win?:Man accused of assaulting deputies found guilty

A plea for mercy:‘I can’t be silent any longer’ – Wife of veteran fights for husband’s release

The Air Force veteran was battling post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses in April 2015 when he threatened his father with a knife and then fired a gun in the general direction of Okaloosa County sheriff’s deputies.

Wanless declined a prosecution offer of 5.5 years in prison in return for a plea to four felony charges and chose instead to take his case to court, claiming he was innocent by virtue of insanity.

Prosecutors added a fifth aggravated assault-related felony charge to the mix after the plea was rejected, and when Wanless was found guilty Stone relied upon the since revoked 10-20-Life law to sentence him to 48 years in prison.

The motion filed Monday by attorney Robert David Malove states Public Defender Ricky Dayaram failed Wanless by not properly conveying ahead of trial the true strength of the prosecution case against him.

“Trial counsel’s passive advice did not communicate the certain defeat the defendant was facing at trial,” the motion says. “Trial counsel should have effectively and firmly communicated

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