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Attempted kidnapper's sentence overturned by high court | News

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Attempted kidnapper's sentence overturned by high court

FAYETTE COUNTY, Ga. -- A man convicted of trying to kidnap two boys in Peachtree City had his charges and prison sentence overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court.

Andrew Magnuson was sentenced in 2002 to 40 years in prison and 25 on probation after pleading guilty to all counts against him.

But in an opinion published Monday, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Hugh Thompson wrote the plea was invalid because Magnuson suffered from a mental disorder.

"Magnuson's mental health condition prevented him from understanding the consequences of his plea," the opinion says, siding with a defense attorney's argument that Magnuson should not have been allowed to enter a group plea, as he did after his arrest and indictment.

The incident happened in 2000, when Magnuson was 22. According to information presented at trial, Magnuson picked up two young boys in his golf cart and took them for a ride. He talked to them about sex and sex toys, exchanged addresses and phone numbers with them, and told them to visit his house. Magnuson was later arrested and charged with enticing a child for indecent purposes, attempted kidnapping and possession of child pornography, which was found during a search of his home.

In court, Magnuson pleaded guilty, but told the judge he had never been a patient in a mental health facility. His attorney later revealed Magnuson was once institutionalized and treated for mental health issues, but was still found competent to stand trial.

Magnuson filed a petition for habeas corpus in 2008, saying his mental disorder prevented him from entering a valid guilty plea.

During the habeas hearing, Magnuson's mother testified she and her husband adopted the defendant as a baby, and he had mental challenges from the beginning. He took special education classes in school, was hospitalized several times, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and needed help with daily living skills.

A mental health therapist who treated Magnuson before and after his arrest told the court Magnuson did not understand the severity of his charges and believed he would only be in jail six to eight weeks. The therapist said Magnuson likely answered the original judge's questions in conformity with the group with which he entered his plea.

The habeas court found Magnuson's guilty plea invalid. The state then appealed to the Georgia Supreme Court.

The state now has the option to re-prosecute Magnuson.