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    Accused judge ponders plea deal

    Circuit Judge Charles W. Cope is accused of trying to barge into two women's hotel room in California.

    By Times staff writer

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published July 28, 2001

    Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Charles W. Cope has not yet decided whether to accept a plea offer from California prosecutors in his criminal case.

    Cope's attorneys neither rejected nor accepted a plea offer from prosecutors at a pretrial hearing Friday. The hearing was continued until Aug. 17. Cope's attorneys say they need more time to investigate the case.

    "We're still negotiating with prosecutors," said Cope's California lawyer, Tom Worthington. "We'll make a decision on Aug. 17 about how to proceed."

    Prosecutors made Cope a plea offer to resolve his case at a hearing Thursday. But neither side will reveal details about the offer. If Cope doesn't accept it on Aug. 17, his case will be set for trial, his lawyer said.

    Cope, 52, is charged with two misdemeanors, prowling/loitering and peering into an inhabited dwelling. Carmel, Calif., police say he tried to enter the hotel room of a 64-year-old woman and her 31-year-old daughter at 12:30 a.m. April 5 while in Carmel attending a judicial conference.

    Police say Cope had been drinking and met the women the previous morning, when police found the trio walking down the middle of a Carmel street at 1:30 a.m., all highly intoxicated.

    The women believe Cope took their room key without their knowledge when he first met them and then used it to open their locked door, police said. Only the room's chain prevented him from entering, police said.

    Cope, who called the incident a "huge misunderstanding," has pleaded not guilty.

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