Plea Deal Upheld For German-Speaking Man Without Interpreter

Marian D. Tigla [Photo courtesy Arizona Dept. Of Corrections]

The Arizona Court of Appeals ruled this month that a Phoenix resident is not entitled to any further hearings about whether his 2017 guilty plea to child molestation was valid because he didn’t have the assistance of a court interpreter.

Marian D. Tigla was arrested in Iowa in 2017 on charges related to sex crimes which occurred in Pinal County in 2008. He Iater pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement and is serving a 24-year sentence at an Arizona Department of Correction (AD) complex in Florence.

Court records show Tigla’s primary language is German. After his sentencing, Tigla filed a petition for post-conviction relief which claimed his guilty plea “was not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entered.” Tigla argued he did not understand English well enough to comprehend the legal proceedings and should therefore be allowed to withdraw from the plea deal.

The petition also alleged that Tigla’s defense attorney knew of his language difficulties and thus provided ineffective assistance of counsel by failing to request assignment of an interpreter.

Judge Jason Holmberg of the Pinal County Superior Court denied Tigla’s petition in November 2018, ruling that the defendant expressly acknowledged his ability to read and understand English. Holmberg later ruled that Tigla’s claim about his attorney’s ineffective assistance was moot based on the ruling about the voluntary guilty plea.

However, a court-appointed attorney who represented Tigla in the post-conviction process allegedly failed to advise Tigla of his right to petition the Arizona Court of Appeals to review Holmberg’s rulings. This resulted in Tigla missing the deadline to challenge the rulings.

Read more by Terri Jo Neff >>

In December 2019, Holmberg granted Tigla judicial leave to file a late petition to the court of appeals, which took up the case earlier this year. On Aug. 7, the court released a unanimous decision which found Tigla failed to demonstrate any abuse of discretion in the rulings made by the superior court judge.

In an unrelated challenge to his sentence, Tigla argued that Holmberg considered an improper aggravating factor when imposing sentence. The judge agreed to hold a new sentencing hearing.  The second sentencing hearing ended with Tigla being given the same 24-year term.

Court records show an interpreter was utilized at the second sentencing hearing.

Tigla’s ADC release date is listed as February 2041. He is not eligible for any early release programs.

Once out of custody, Tigla must serve lifetime probation and register as a sex offender. He is also the subject of an immigrant hold which will likely result in deportation after his release from prison.