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George Hyatte wants to take back guilty plea

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By The Staff

By DAMON LAWRENCE

dlawrence@roanecounty.com

Criminal Court Judge Eugene Eblen asked a direct question and got a direct answer from defendant George Hyatte during a plea hearing on March 9.

“Do you understand fully what you’re charged with and what you’re pleading guilty to?” Eblen asked.

“Yes,” Hyatte responded.

Despite his affirmation in open court, Hyatte now wants to flip flop on his guilty plea, claiming he was hoodwinked.

“Defendant submits to the court that he was misled and pushed into a plea,” Hyatte claims in a hand-written motion filed earlier this month. “The defendant’s situation of being housed on death row pretrial was a tool used to push the defendant into a plea,” Hyatte also wrote.

Eblen sentenced Hyatte to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 18 years, after he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder for the shooting death of corrections officer Wayne “Cotton” Morgan, the attempted first-degree murder of corrections officer Larry  “Porky” Harris and felony escape.

The charges stemmed from a brazen escape plotted by Hyatte and his wife. Jennifer Hyatte shot and killed Morgan and wounded Harris when they were escorting George Hyatte back to a prison van in the Roane County Courthouse parking lot on Aug. 9, 2005.

The couple fled to Ohio, where they were captured at a motel a day later.

Eblen sentenced Jennifer Hyatte to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 18 years, after she pleaded guilty to the crimes in September 2007.

Prosecutors said they weren’t surprised by George Hyatte’s about-face.

“It’s not unexpected,” Assistant District Attorney General Frank Harvey said. “We see it pretty regularly in situations like this. It doesn’t cost you anything to ask.”

Harvey said it’s up to the judge to decide on Hyatte’s motion.