One of two men prosecutors said were tied to a 2016 fatal stabbing at High Desert State Prison pleaded guilty this week to first-degree murder.
Anthony “Mugsy” Williams, 38, agreed to a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, instead of the death penalty, said his defense attorney, Gary Modafferi. Williams and 36-year-old Tarik “Torque” Goicoechea had been accused of participating in the fatal stabbing of fellow prisoner Andrew Thurgood in February 2016.
In March 2020, a judge dismissed the death penalty case against Goicoechea, but a grand jury again indicted him in July 2020 on charges including murder, assault and racketeering.
Goicoechea pleaded guilty Wednesday to racketeering and assault with a deadly weapon through what is known as an Alford plea, which means he admitted only that prosecutors had enough evidence to prove his guilt, according to Dayvid Figler, one of his defense attorneys.
Prosecutors also agreed not to seek the death penalty for Goicoechea, who is now facing six to 22 1/2 years in prison, Figler said.
“Our position has always been that this should never have been a death penalty case,” Figler said. “It didn’t really make sense for them to charge our client with murder.”
Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael Dickerson on Thursday declined to comment on the case.
The charges Goicoechea pleaded guilty to did not relate to Thurgood’s killing, he said. The assault charge stemmed from July 2019, when prosecutors accused Goicoechea of attempting to stab prisoner Patrick Eiken, court documents show.
Figler has previously said that prosecutors had not shown sufficient evidence that Goicoechea was an Aryan Warrior.
The August 2019 indictment was the first time prosecutors publicly linked Williams and Goicoechea to Thurgood’s killing, while no other crimes listed in the indictment occurred before January 2019.
A day before the 26-year-old was stabbed 52 times inside a locked cell, Williams wrote to a woman predicting he would soon be punished. That letter made no reference to Goicoechea.
In an internal email from late 2018, a top prosecutor in the state attorney general’s office, which oversees crimes in the prison system, recommended that no charges be filed against the suspects.
A federal lawsuit filed in 2018 by Thurgood’s family alleged that a corrections officer allowed Thurgood to enter a cell with two other prisoners, although three people were not allowed in a cell at one time. The two other prisoners stabbed Thurgood, then pressed a call button and told a corrections officer there was a “man down,” according to the lawsuit.
An officer opened the cell door electronically before the men dragged Thurgood’s body out and “gave each other a ‘high five,’” the lawsuit alleged. The suit also claimed that corrections officers “intentionally delayed in responding to Andrew’s condition and allowed Andrew to bleed out on the floor.”
The lawsuit was settled outside of court for an undisclosed amount in April 2020, court records show.
A sentencing hearing for Williams is scheduled for Nov. 18, while Goicoechea is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 15.