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Williams v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, First Division

August 22, 2017

RODNEY A. WILLIAMS, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Honorable Steven H. Goldman Judge.

          KURT S. ODENWALD Judge.

         Introduction

         Rodney A. Williams ("Williams") appeals from the judgment of the motion court denying his Rule 24.035[1] motion for post-conviction relief without an evidentiary hearing. Because Williams absconded custody for approximately two years, we dismiss the appeal pursuant to the escape rule.

         Factual and Procedural History

         The State charged Williams with one count of second-degree burglary and one count of stealing $500 or more. The State subsequently dismissed the burglary charge, and Williams entered into a blind guilty plea for the amended charge of receiving stolen property. The plea court released Williams and continued sentencing so that Williams could complete school. The plea court set sentencing for July 15, 2013.

         On July 15, 2013, Williams did not appear at the sentencing hearing on time. The plea court issued a capias warrant. Shortly thereafter, Williams arrived at the sentencing hearing, but left the courtroom when he saw "them locking people up." Police arrested Williams two years later in Louisiana and extradited him to Missouri.

         Williams then filed a Rule 29.07(d) motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Williams attempted to justify his two year absence-he asserted that he took care of his mother and wife until they died, completed school, was "productive, ... [and] stayed out of trouble." The plea court denied the motion to withdraw Williams's guilty plea, and sentenced Williams to six years in prison.

         Williams filed for post-conviction relief, alleging that he improperly entered into the blind guilty plea due to ineffective assistance of counsel. Specifically, Williams claimed that plea counsel ineffectively advised Williams that if he entered into a blind guilty plea, the plea court would likely sentence him to probation or less time in prison. In addition, Williams asserted that his plea counsel only met with him once, did not go over the police reports with him, and did not counsel him about his chances of success at trial. The motion court denied Williams's Rule 24.035 motion on the merits, without an evidentiary hearing. Williams now appeals.

         Point on Appeal

         Williams raises a single point on appeal: the motion court clearly erred in denying, without an evidentiary hearing, his Rule 24.035 motion claiming that plea counsel was ineffective. Williams contends that plea counsel failed to provide accurate and meaningful advice regarding the amended charge and potential consequences of the blind guilty plea.

         Discussion

         Before we discuss the merits of Williams's appeal, we address the State's argument that we apply the escape rule to this case. The State maintains that under Missouri precedent in Nichols v. State, 131 S.W.3d 863, 865 (Mo. App. E.D. 2004), and State v. Troupe, 891 S.W.2d 808, 811 (Mo. banc 1995), Williams committed a willful escape from justice by absconding for two years. Further, the State contends that because the capias warrant for Williams remained outstanding for approximately two years, the criminal justice system was necessarily adversely impacted.

         '"The escape rule is a judicially-created doctrine that operates to deny the right of appeal to a criminal defendant who escapes justice.'" Parsons v. State, 383 S.W.3d 71, 73 (Mo. App. E.D. 2012) (quoting Crawle ...


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