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Court: Jeremy Wand's plea not coerced
MADISON - Jeremy L. Wand was not coerced into pleading guilty to setting fire to his brother's house in a grisly blaze that killed his three young nephews and the fetus his sister-in-law was carrying, an appeals court ruled Thursday.

The District IV Court of Appeals denied granting the former Argyle man a hearing to prove he should be able to withdraw his pleas. Claims by Wand's appeals attorney, George Tauscheck, lacked sufficient facts that would entitle him to withdraw his pleas and go to trial, the opinion stated.

Wand was sentenced to three life sentences by Green County Circuit Judge Thomas Vale in September 2013 on four counts of first-degree intentional homicide and additional time for arson and felony murder for his role in the fatal fire. Wand, who was 18 at the time, and his brother locked the three boys, then ages 3 to 7, in a bedroom before setting fire to the home the family rented so that Armin J. Wand III could cash out their life insurance. Armin Wand's wife and toddler daughter survived the fire.

According to the opinion written by Judge Joanne Kloppenburg:

Tauscheck made extensive allegations and arguments to support the claim that Wand pleaded guilty because his trial attorneys coerced him. However, the allegations do not specify what Wand's attorneys, Frank Medina and Miguel Michel, did or said that was coercive.

Tauscheck argued that Wand was coerced as:

• Wand felt most pressured by Michel to plead and that Medina "kind of sided" with Michael;

• Wand felt hopeless when the motion to suppress his statements to police was withdrawn;

• Medina never believed Wand's claim of innocence and no defense was ever discussed; and

• Medina filed up a plea questionnaire in advance and told Wand to trust him.

Kloppenburg wrote that it is not coercion for an attorney to tell a client that he knows best and to trust him. Also, when no viable defense is available, the attorney should seek the best plea agreement.

"At most, the statements itemized above support the conclusion that Wand's trial attorneys strongly advised him to enter a plea. But "forceful advice" based on counsel's professional belief that conviction is highly likely is not coercion, Kloppenburg wrote.

The appeals court also found that Wand's attorneys adequately represented him even though they did not hire an expert who disputed the fire was intentionally set or get his confession to police thrown out of court by hiring an expert to discredit how Wand was interrogated.

Kloppenburg wrote that there was no proof offered that Wand's confession was involuntary and that Wand would have gone to trial if Medina and Michael would have hired Tauscheck's fire expert instead of theirs.

A call to Tauscheck was not returned by deadline.

Before Wand pleaded guilty, Medina asked the court to order a competency exam for his client. In the competency report Wand said police questioned him during a three-day period and refused to believe his statements that he was innocent. Wand said he just lied and confessed to the crimes in a statement similar to his brother's.

Wand is incarcerated at the Green Bay Correctional Institution, according to online records.

Armin Wand III was sentenced to three life sentences without the possibility of parole. An appeal of his convictions is pending.