Five months after the state Court of Appeals allowed Danny Wing to withdraw his guilty plea in the 2014 death of 3-year-old Jasper Henderling-Warner due to an error in tabulating his criminal history, the court ruled this month that his wife will have the same opportunity.
Danny and Brenda Wing each pleaded guilty to crimes including first-degree manslaughter and third-degree assault in 2015 and were sentenced to 34 years in prison. Both appealed their sentences.
The state Court of Appeals released its decision on Brenda Wing’s appeal on July 18, about two months after hearing oral arguments in the case.
Neither has officially withdrawn their pleas. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer said his office is willing to take both cases to trial if need be.
According to the Court of Appeals decision, Brenda Wing appealed her 2015 conviction and 34-year sentence on several arguments.
Like her husband, she argued that her guilty plea to the third-degree assault charge was “involuntary” because her offender score, a number based on criminal history used to calculate a standard statutory sentence, was incorrect.
Brenda Wing’s offender score was calculated at 6, but should have been 5, according to the court’s brief. For an offender score of 5, the sentence should have been 17 to 22 months. For a score of 6, the sentence would be 22 to 29 months.
“The state concedes that Wing’s offender score was incorrect, but nonetheless argues that the erroneous offender score does not invalidate Wing’s plea. We agree with Wing,” the Appeals Court ruled.
After Danny Wing’s appeal was granted, Meyer noted that the third-degree assault sentence ran concurrently with the 34-year sentence on the manslaughter charge, which the appeals court did not specifically overturn. Regardless of the sentence on the third-degree assault, the Wings would still be in prison on the sentence for the more serious charge.
However, the appeals court ruled that she could withdraw her pleas to all charges due to the error, as it did with her husband earlier this year.
“The state argues that because the miscalculated offender score on the third-degree assault of a child conviction did not determine Wing’s ultimate sentence, there is no manifest injustice to correct and we should affirm the guilty plea. We disagree,” the court’s ruling on Brenda Wing’s appeal states. “A plea agreement must be treated as indivisible … Thus, if there is an error on one count of an indivisible multicount agreement, the entire plea agreement must be set aside upon request.”
Danny, 28, and Brenda Wing, 29, became Henderling-Warner’s legal guardians in 2014 when his mother was temporarily unable to care for him.
Months after they took custody of the toddler, he died in October 2014 of injuries consistent with abuse, according to the Lewis County Coroner’s Office. He had a septic MRSA infection and healing fractures, burns and bruises, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.
Danny Wing pleaded guilty in March 2015 to first-degree manslaughter and third-degree assault of a child. Brenda Wing pleaded guilty in May 2015 to first-degree manslaughter, third-degree assault of a child, possession of a controlled substance and tampering with a witness.
Both pleaded guilty as part of deals with prosecutors in which they were required to provide a complete account of the boy’s death in exchange for a shorter sentence due to the removal of “aggravating factors” that have the effect of lengthening a sentence, provided they passed polygraph tests.
Neither passed, and both were sentenced to more than 34 years in prison.
Both appealed the length of their sentences.
At his sentencing hearing, Danny Wing admitted to failing the polygraphs and told the court he wanted to stipulate, or admit, to the aggravating factors and accept a higher sentence.
However, in his appeal, he argued that the Prosecutor’s Office breached his plea agreement by asking for the three-decade sentence. He also argued his offender score on the third-degree assault charge, which determined his sentence on that charge, was calculated improperly.
The appeals court ruled the Prosecutor’s Office did not breach the plea agreement, but ruled that his offender score was improperly calculated on the third-degree assault conviction.
Danny Wing has not yet appeared in court to withdraw his plea.
He told The Chronicle this spring he recanted any admission of guilt in the case and said he plans to first focus on a personal restraint petition filed with the state Court of Appeals asking the court to dismiss his case for alleged misconduct by the Prosecutor’s Office.