By Michael R. Moser
David Scott Kirkland, shackled and wearing Department of Correction prison blues, found himself standing before Criminal Court Judge Leon Burns in a "Catch 22" situation.
Facing a charge rarely prosecuted in Cumberland County, Kirkland had a decision to make over how to proceed against the charge of bigamy, a class A misdemeanor.
Kirkland explained to Burns that he was in an accelerated good conduct program within the prison system and being found guilty of the charge could get him bounced out of the program and make him ineligible for an earlier release.
If the case drags on, he added, he can't be released from custody with the new charge pending.
Adding to the confusion was Kirkland and his attorney, Assistant Public Defender Jennifer Koldstat's position, that the charge should be dropped because of the amount of time that had lapsed between the time the charge was investigated and presented to the grand jury, and when the indictment was actually served on Kirkland.
"Mr. Kirkland was in state custody when this indictment was issued and has been in state custody since," Koldstat argued. "He was not hard to find."
The failure to serve Kirkland with the new charge resulted in his denial of a speedy trial and places the good behavior program he currently participates in the Department of Corrections in jeopardy.
While there was no clear explanation on why service of the new charge was delayed, Burns denied the motion to have the charge dismissed.
This resulted in Kirkland going into a meeting with his attorney and later returning to court and entering his guilty plea.
Koldstat explained that the charge stemmed from a "prior marriage that never was legally resolved," before Kirkland remarried.
He was convicted in January 2010 of theft of more than $10,000 and passing a forged instrument and received a five-year suspended sentence to be served on probation. Kirkland failed to abide by all conditions of his probation and had his probation revoked to serve the balance of his sentence.
Because of his good conduct in prison, he was put in an accelerated program that would allow him to meet various goals that could lead to an early release, and according to Kirkland and his attorney, he was excelling in the program when the new charge hit.
Not wishing to have the charge hanging over his head, Kirkland told the judge that he understood that no one in the court system could predict how his plea would affect his status with the prison program in which he was participating.
Satisfied that Kirkland understood all of his constitutional rights and understood what he was doing, Burns accepted the guilty plea with a six-month sentence to serve, concurrent with the sentence he is already serving in prison. He will be given credit for 127 days incarcerated after being served with the indictment.