Oct. 23--A Desert Storm veteran diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder entered a guilty plea to first-degree arson Tuesday, but then had his plea rejected by District Judge Mary Ann Brown when he told her he was not guilty of the crime.
"I just want this over with," David A. Good, 46, of Burlington, told Brown during a special plea hearing Tuesday in Des Moines County District Court.
After questioning Good for several minutes about his decision to plead guilty to arson, Brown was about to sentence him to a mandatory prison term not to exceed 25 years. However, as the facts against Good were being read into the court record, he abruptly interrupted Brown, by telling her he didn't set the house on fire.
"I didn't do it," he said. "I was at Crapo Park, and when I came home the back of my house was on fire. I didn't do it ... I'm not guilty."
When Brown asked him why he was pleading guilty to the charges if he was not guilty, he responded: "Because I just want to get this over with today."
Brown, however, told Good, his attorney, Trent Henkelvig, and Des Moines County prosecutor Lisa Schaefer she could not accept Good's plea based on what he had just told her.
"I can't let you do this," she told Good. "If you didn't commit the crime, you shouldn't be going to prison for 25 years. If you weren't involved, you shouldn't plead guilty."
Throughout the 30-minute hearing, Brown was not informed of Good's diagnosis of PTSD. The diagnosis was contained in another case file involving Good on a unrelated charge of domestic abuse. Brown, Henkelvig and Schaefer were not involved in that case.
After rejecting Good's plea, Brown told him she would set the arson charge for jury trial beginning at 9 a.m. Nov. 3. She ordered him returned to the Des Moines County jail, where he is being held in lieu of a $25,000 cash only bond.
Good was arrested in December for setting fire to a residence at 1806 Madison Ave., where his estranged wife and her son lived.
Burlington Fire Marshal Mark Crooks said Nina Good and her son, Adam Messer, escaped the house fire without injury, but a firefighter was taken to Great River Medical Center in West Burlington and treated for minor injuries.
Tuesday's hearing was the latest in an ongoing drama that began when Good was charged with arson in December. Over the ensuing months, he fired his attorney, James Beres, because he didn't think he was being represented properly.
The court then appointed Henkelvig to represent him. After several discussions with prosecutors, it appeared Good was prepared to plead guilty Tuesday to arson and accept the 25-year prison sentence.
However, during Tuesday's hearing, it became apparent Good was having difficulty understanding exactly how long he would have to serve in prison before becoming eligible for parole.
"I can't tell you that," Brown said. "That will be up to the parole board. All I can do is sentence you to a prison term of up to 25 years."
Brown said she didn't have the authority to reduce his sentence or grant him probation because he was pleading guilty to a "forcible felony," which required jail time.
At one point, Brown asked Good if he was suffering any physical or emotional problems that would prevent him from understanding the proceedings against him.
"I have some brain trauma from a car accident six years ago," he said. However, he added it was no longer a problem for him and he was aware of the proceedings.
Henkelvig, his attorney, seemed to disagree with Good's statement concerning his mental health.
"I think he is underestimating his history of mental (problems)," he told Brown. "He has been tested and found to be competent. He knows what he is doing today."
However, Henkelvig did not mention to Brown that Good suffers from PTSD.
In the other criminal cases involving the same victims as those who were involved in the arson charges, lawyers representing Good filed court documents indicating he suffers from post traumatic stress disorder related to his military service.