The first time Paul A. Woods III agreed to help prosecutors as part of a plea agreement, officials say he lied to a grand jury and tried to get others to do the same. The second time Woods cooperated, he put his life on the line to testify about an inmate killing another prisoner at a federal prison in eastern Kentucky.
Now, Woods will get a chance to force prosecutors to request a reduction in his life sentence because of his testimony.
The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered a hearing in Woods' efforts to reduce his prison time. Judge Karen Nelson Moore concluded that an assistant U.S. attorney may have promised to try to reduce Woods' sentence. Moore wrote for the court that evidence must be developed about what prosecutors in Kentucky told Woods before he testified at the murder trial.
The case now goes back to federal court in Nashville for a hearing on whether prosecutors will be forced to request a lesser sentence.
Woods is serving life in prison for cocaine distribution conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. He pleaded guilty in 2000 in Nashville, Tenn.
As part of his plea agreement, Woods agreed to help prosecutors in another investigation. Instead, they say, Woods perjured himself and sought to have others to the same. Prosecutors in Tennessee then declined to seek a sentence reduction for him.
Woods sought to withdraw his plea, saying prosecutors improperly influenced his decision by allowing him to have sexual contact with a girlfriend while in custody during the plea negotiations. A judge found the allegation untrue and denied his request.
While serving his life sentence, Woods testified against 36-year-old Dwaune "Deuce" Gravely, who was charged along with 31-year-old Darryl "Beast" Milburne, with murder in the death of 32-year-old fellow inmate Shamoni Peterson in 2006. The slaying took place at United States Penitentiary-Big Sandy in Inez, Ky.
Woods testified that Gravely, a gang member, convinced Milburne to take the blame for the murder. Woods also claimed to have prevented Milburne from killing another witness in the case before trial. Woods testified that although he didn't have a deal in place with prosecutors, he was hoping they would help him try for a reduced sentence.
Gravely and Milburne were convicted of Peterson's slaying. Both are now serving life in prison at United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility, better known as Supermax.
Prosecutors in Kentucky contacted officials in Tennessee about the cooperation, but the Tennessee prosecutors still wouldn't help Woods seek a lesser sentence.
"The government was concerned, however, with the defendant's breach of his plea agreement, failure to accept responsibility, efforts to obstruct justice, perjury and false allegations, the seriousness of the defendant's own criminal conduct, public safety factors and lack of timely, full and truthful cooperation," Moore wrote.
Woods claims prosecutors in Nashville won't ask for a lesser sentence because of the accusations of allowing sexual contact during plea negotiations.
Moore concluded that the evidence developed in the case is ambiguous and Woods should get a chance to make the case that prosecutors should help with his sentencing issue.
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