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Robertson v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division

October 11, 2016

RICHARD E. ROBERTSON, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri The Honorable Jack R. Grate, Jr., Judge.

          Before Mark D. Pfeiffer, Chief Judge, and James Edward Welsh and Alok Ahuja, Judges.

          MARK D PFEIFFER, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Mr. Richard E. Robertson ("Robertson") appeals the judgment of the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri ("motion court"), denying his Rule 24.035[1] motion for post-conviction relief. Robertson argues that the motion court's decision was clearly erroneous because his guilty plea to the class C felony of failure to register as a sex offender was not made knowingly and voluntarily. We affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Robertson was charged by information in lieu of indictment with the class C felony of failing to register as a sex offender, § 589.425.[2] On February 7, 2014, Robertson pled guilty to that charge pursuant to an agreement that the State would not request a sentence in excess of three years' imprisonment and would not charge Robertson as a prior and persistent felony offender.

         During Robertson's guilty plea hearing, Robertson stated he understood that by pleading guilty, he was waiving certain rights and that he had a right to plead not guilty. He confirmed that plea counsel had discussed his constitutional rights with him, and he knew that he was giving up his right to a trial by pleading guilty. Upon entering his guilty plea, Robertson explicitly confirmed that he was pleading guilty because he was guilty. The plea court[3] asked Robertson if he was pleading guilty freely and voluntarily and he responded, "Yes, I am, Sir." The plea court asked him if anyone was forcing him to plead guilty, and Robertson responded, "No one is threatening me or forcing me in any way." In response to the plea court's questioning, Robertson further testified that he had not been offered anything other than the plea agreement to induce him to plead guilty. He also advised the plea court that he was satisfied with the services of his attorney, affirmatively noting that his plea counsel had "been [an] effective assistant in all regard[s]."

         Upon finding that Robertson's guilty plea had been freely and voluntarily made with a full understanding of the range of punishment and consequences of the plea, the plea court accepted Robertson's guilty plea. The plea court found that there was a factual basis for the plea and that it was not the result of force or threats or any promises except the plea agreement.

         Following the entry of his guilty plea, Robertson was sentenced to thirty months in prison. Robertson subsequently filed a pro se Rule 24.035 motion for post-conviction relief, arguing that his plea attorney had coerced him into pleading guilty and that his plea was, thus, not knowing and voluntary. The motion court appointed post-conviction relief counsel for Robertson and said counsel timely filed an amended Rule 24.035 motion on Robertson's behalf. The motion court held an evidentiary hearing on Robertson's Rule 24.035 motion, after which the motion court entered judgment denying the motion.

         Robertson timely appealed.

         Standard of Review

         Our review of a motion court's ruling denying a Rule 24.035 motion is limited to a determination of whether the motion court's judgment was clearly erroneous. See Roberts v. State, 276 S.W.3d 833, 835 (Mo. banc 2009); Rule 24.035(k). The motion court's judgment is clearly erroneous only if, after reviewing the entire record, "the court is left with the definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made." Roberts, 276 S.W.3d at 835. The movant bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the motion court clearly erred in its ruling. Id. See also Rule 24.035(i). On appeal, the facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the motion court's judgment. See Rousan v. State, 48 S.W.3d 576, 579 (Mo. banc 2001). When reviewing a motion court's ruling, we presume the motion court's findings are correct. Barton v. State, 432 S.W.3d 741, 748 (Mo. banc 2014).

         Analysis

         On appeal, Robertson contends that the motion court clearly erred in denying his Rule 24.035 motion for post-conviction relief on the basis that his guilty plea was unknowing and involuntary because his ...


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