Disputed sentence upheld in bias killing

Michael Simpson

A Clifton man who claimed he was misled about a plea agreement in the 2009 murder of a man has lost his latest appeal.

Michael Simpson, 28, who is serving 72 years in the unprovoked shooting death of 50-year-old Marco Acosta-Estrella in Clifton, claimed in separate appeals that his attorney had represented he was to receive no more than 55 years in prison under a plea agreement.

Simpson claimed if he’d known 72 years was a possibility, he’d have pleaded not guilty and gone to trial.

Simpson claimed ineffective assistance by his attorney “coercing him into accepting a plea agreement.”

In a ruling released Thursday, the Colorado Court of Appeals said there’s nothing in the case record suggesting Simpson didn’t understand the plain language in the signed plea agreement.

A panel of judges with the Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling, rejecting Simpson’s bid to withdraw guilty pleas.

In exchange for guilty pleas to second-degree murder and three counts of second-degree assault, Simpson was exposed June 2, 2010, during sentencing by District Judge Richard Gurley to a maximum possible term of 90 years in prison.

Simpson’s own lengthy statement during his sentencing undermines his post-conviction argument, the Court of Appeals said.

“If you hand me down a sentence that will allow me to re-enter the free world at some point, I will use every fiber of my being to give back in a positive way,” Simpson told Gurley in his June 2010 sentencing.

The statement appears to acknowledge Simpson was aware of the possibility he could be sentenced to a term beyond 55 years, the Court of Appeals observed.

Simpson was originally charged with committing a bias-motivated crime, among other crimes, on the night of July 28, 2009, when prosecutors said he randomly walked up to a home in the 400 block of Mae Street and fired at least seven shots from a handgun.

Four children, all under age 5, were celebrating a child’s birthday. The victim, Acosta-Estrella, was visiting from Mexico for his granddaughter’s birthday.

Prosecutors said Simpson spewed racial epithets while being booked at the Mesa County Jail, telling jailers “Obama is ruining this country” and explaining he and law enforcement were “on the same side because we’re trying to get the criminals off the street.”

Simpson will be eligible for parole in 2056, according to the Colorado Department of Corrections.


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