A Johnson City man ordered to represent himself in an attempted murder case after dismissing two court-appointed attorneys decided to plead guilty to the charge Monday, then decided against it.
Eric Parker, 49, will still have one more chance to enter a “best interest” plea to the charge in exchange for an 18-year prison sentence. A best interest plea means that Parker would not admit guilt to any offense, but agrees that a guilty plea is in his best interest under the circumstances.
District Attorney General Erin McArdle told Judge Robert Cupp she estimated Parker’s sentencing range would be 16 to 20 years in prison if he’s convicted at trial and the judge determines the sentence.
Parker is charged with a Feb. 14, 2012, shooting and beating of a 27-year-old woman. A police officer found the woman around 2:30 a.m. that day lying in the parking lot of the Lions Club Park off East Unaka Avenue. The woman had been shot multiple times in her lower extremities and appeared to have a dislocated hip, police said.
Officers also found six Marakov brand ammunition shell casings and several empty 16-ounce Natural Ice beer cans at the scene.
The same type of ammunition was found in the gun — a 9mm FEG Hungary — located in Parker’s car, along with 16-ounce cans of Natural Ice beer, court records said.
Parker was developed as a suspect after investigators learned Parker and the woman were seen leaving Everett’s Bar and Grill on North Roan Street together earlier that night.
Parker has been represented by Bill Donaldson and later Donna Bolton. She was released from the case last week after Parker told Cupp he’d rather go to trial alone.
On Monday, Cupp told Parker he appointed Bolton due to her aggressive nature and thought she was a good fit to represent Parker.
“Ms. Bolton is one of the most aggressive attorneys in the First District,” Cupp said. “I thought that would meet the criteria for you,” because Parker felt his previous attorney was not doing enough.
“The reason I appointed an aggressive attorney is because you’re aggressive yourself. I don’t fault you for that,” Cupp said.
Without an attorney to represent Parker, Cupp appointed elbow counsel for him. That came last week when Cupp named Charles London to that slot.
“I appointed Mr. London because he’s patient. He has the patience of Job,” Cupp said.
The conversation between Parker and the judge came during a hearing in which Parker indicated he wanted to accept a plea offer from McArdle that would net him 18 years in prison.
But after further talk, with Cupp telling Parker he’d likely not get a harsher sentence if he was convicted, Parker opted to go to trial after all.
After hearing and ruling on several motions from Parker, Cupp told the man he’d give him one more chance Tuesday morning to accept the plea.
“I won’t let you plead just because you’re representing yourself,” Cupp said, but added he would accept a best interest plea.
If convicted, Parker faces 15 to 25 years in prison.
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