Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, First Division
FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF JACKSON COUNTY, MISSOURI THE
HONORABLE S. MARGENE BURNETT JUDGE
Before: James E. Welsh, Presiding Judge, Anthony Rex Gabbert,
Judge and Edward R. Ardini, Jr., Judge
R. ARDINI, JR., JUDGE
R. Benson ("Benson") appeals the denial of his Rule
24.035 motion for post-conviction relief
following his plea of guilty to one count of first-degree
child endangerment under Missouri Revised Statutes section
568.045. Benson argues that the plea court failed
to establish a factual basis for the plea and that the plea
was thus not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily made.
Finding no error, we affirm.
and Procedural Background
was originally charged in the Circuit Court of Jackson County
with two counts of first-degree child endangerment for
failing to seek appropriate medical attention and failing to
provide proper nutrition to L.P. ("victim"). On
October 19, 2012, Benson appeared before the plea court to
enter a guilty plea to one count of child endangerment for
failing to seek appropriate medical attention. The plea was
the result of an agreement with the prosecutor who would, in
exchange for the plea of guilty, dismiss the second count of
child endangerment relating to the failure to provide proper
nutrition and would recommend Benson be sentenced to seven
years in prison with execution of the sentence suspended and
placed on probation for a period of five years. Benson
acknowledged that he understood the plea agreement and that
he wished to enter a plea of guilty.
was not Benson's biological daughter but had been living
with Jacole Prince ("Prince"), who was the mother
to two of Benson's children. During the course of
entering the guilty plea, Benson admitted that victim was a
child under the age of 17 at the time of the alleged criminal
conduct and that victim had shown him her injuries, which he
found to be so alarming that he said he would
"whoop" Prince. Benson also admitted that he knew
that victim's medical issues created a substantial risk
to her life, body, or health, yet he knowingly failed to seek
appropriate medical attention for her.
plea court accepted Benson's guilty plea after finding
that it was freely and voluntarily made with a full
understanding of the nature of the charges and the
consequences of pleading guilty, that it was not the result
of any threats or promises except for the plea agreement, and
that there was a factual basis for the plea.
October 10, 2013, Benson's probation was revoked and his
seven-year prison sentence was executed. Benson timely filed
his pro se motion for post-conviction relief, after
which appointed counsel filed an amended Rule 24.035 motion.
The motion court conducted an evidentiary hearing and then
entered findings of facts and conclusions of law denying
relief. Benson now appeals.
Raised on Appeal
sole point raised on appeal asserts that the trial court
erred in denying his Rule 24.035 post-conviction relief
motion because the plea court failed to establish the factual
basis for the plea as, he argues, no facts were presented to
demonstrate that he owed a duty to seek appropriate medical
attention for victim. Benson contends that as a result, the
plea court accepted his guilty plea in violation of Rule
24.02. Further, because the plea court failed to establish
what he argues is a necessary element of the charged offense,
Benson claims that his plea was not knowing, intelligent, and
voluntary, thus violating his right to due process of law.
denial of a motion for post-conviction relief is reviewed for
clear error. Rule 24.035(k). The motion court's judgment
is "deemed clearly erroneous only if, after a review of
the entire record, the appellate court is left with the
definite and firm impression that a mistake has been
made." Generaux v. State, 448 S.W.3d 355,
357-58 (Mo. App. W.D. 2014). The findings of fact and
conclusions of law of the motion court are presumed correct.
Frantz v. State, 451 S.W.3d 697, 699 (Mo. App. W.D.
24.02(e) provides that a court "shall not enter a
judgment upon a plea of guilty unless it determines that
there is a factual basis for the plea." The purpose of
this rule is to ensure that "a defendant understand[s]
the specific charges against him, that he understand[s] the
maximum penalty confronting him, and that he recognize[s]
that he has waived specific legal rights by pleading
guilty." Cafferty v. State, 453 S.W.3d 791, 795
(Mo. App. W.D. 2014) (quoting Calvin v. State, 204
S.W.3d 220, 225-26 (Mo. App. W.D. 2006)). "A factual
basis for a guilty plea is necessary to ensure that the
guilty plea was intelligently and voluntarily entered,
thereby satisfying due-process requirements."
O'Neal v. State, 236 S.W.3d 91, 95 (Mo. App.
E.D. 2007). The factual basis must exist on the record as a
whole, but it does not need to be established by the
defendant's own words or by an admission of the facts
recited by the State. Burnett v. State, 450 S.W.3d
800, 805 (Mo. App. W.D. 2014). Rather, "[a] factual
basis exists if the defendant understands the facts recited
by the court and expresses an awareness of the nature and
elements of the charge." Generaux v. State, 448
S.W.3d 355, 358 (Mo. App. W.D. 2014)
section 568.045, "[a] person commits the crime of
endangering the welfare of a child in the first degree if:
(1) [t]he person knowingly acts in a manner that creates a
substantial risk to the life, body, or health of a child less
than seventeen years old." Therefore, in a prosecution
of this offense "[t]he state must prove the following
elements: '(1) the defendant engaged in conduct, (2) in
so doing, the defendant created a substantial risk to the
life, body, or health of a child, (3) the victim was less
than seventeen years old, and (4) the defendant acted
knowingly with respect to the facts and
circumstances.'" State v. Smith, 502 S.W.3d
689, 695 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016) (quoting State v.
Short, 186 S.W.3d 828, 830-31 (Mo. App. E.D. 2006)).
Further, it is well established that one can be found guilty
of child endangerment based on a failure to act, including a
failure to provide necessary medical attention. See,
e.g., State v. Mahurin, 799 S.W.2d 840, 843
(Mo. banc 1990) ("To withhold food and medical care is
to act in a manner that puts a child at risk. Failure to
provide medical treatment for a child violates [the child
endangerment statute].") Carmons v. State, 26
S.W.3d 382, 385 (Mo. App. W.D. 2000) ("[T]he failure to
act may subject an individual to prosecution for child
endangerment.") State v. Johnson, 402 ...