Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division
from the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis 1422-CC08966
Honorable John J. Riley Judge.
M. CLAYTON III, JUDGE.
Jeffcott ("Movant") appeals the judgment granting
in part and denying in part his Rule 24.035 motion for
post-conviction relief following an evidentiary hearing. We
affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.
was charged with nine sex offenses involving two victims
(Counts I-IX). The indictment alleges Counts I, II, and III
(two counts of first-degree statutory sodomy and one count of
incest, respectively) were all committed by Movant on or
between April 21, 2000 and December 31, 2001. In all three
counts, Movant was alleged to have had deviate sexual
intercourse with J.K. by engaging in hand-to-genital contact;
Count I alleged Movant touched J.K.'s genitals with his
hand, Count II alleged Movant put J.K.'s hand on
Movant's penis, and Count III alleged Movant placed his
hand on J.K.'s genitals.
was also charged with Counts IV-IX (one count of first-degree
statutory sodomy, four counts of first-degree child
molestation, and one count of incest, respectively). Those
six counts pertained to Movant's alleged sexual contact
with victim J.J.
Movant's Guilty Plea and Sentencing Hearings
November 6, 2013, Movant appeared with plea counsel
("Counsel") to enter guilty pleas to Counts I-IX
without any plea bargain. Movant stated he believed it was in his
best interest to plead guilty to all of the offenses, he had
sufficient time to speak with Counsel, and he had no
complaints as to how Counsel handled his case. Further,
Movant told the court he understood his constitutional right
to a trial and he would be giving up that right and
corresponding rights by pleading guilty.
prosecutor then explained if Movant's case had gone to
trial, the evidence would have shown the following. For
Counts I, II, and III relating to victim J.K., the charged
conduct occurred between April 21, 2000 and December 31,
2001, J.K. was approximately eight years old during that
timeframe, and the charged conduct constituted deviate sexual
intercourse. The prosecutor explained the State would have
proven that during the aforementioned timeframe: Movant
touched J.K.'s genitals with his hand (the act of
first-degree statutory sodomy charged in Count I); Movant put
J.K's hand on Movant's penis (the act of first-degree
statutory sodomy charged in Count II); and Movant placed his
hand on J.K.'s genitals, at a time when Movant knew J.K.
was his stepchild by virtue of a marriage creating the
relationship (the act of incest charged in Count III). The
prosecutor also explained the State would have proven each of
the specific types of alleged sexual contact underlying
Counts IV-IX pertaining to victim J.J. Finally, the
prosecutor further stated J.K. told the police Movant touched
her in the sexual manner alleged in Counts I-III, and J.J.
told a professional at the Children's Advocacy Center
that Movant touched her in the sexual manner alleged in
stated he did not disagree with anything the prosecutor said,
and that the prosecutor did not say anything that was not
true or leave anything out. Movant then admitted he committed
the conduct set forth by the prosecutor and stated he was
"pleading guilty because [he] did those things[.]"
Movant also stated he wanted to plead guilty and nobody was
making him do it. Then, Movant acknowledged he faced up to
life imprisonment for the first-degree statutory sodomy
charges in Counts I, II, and IV, up to four years of
imprisonment for the incest charges in Counts III and IX, and
up to fifteen years of imprisonment for the first-degree
child molestation charges in Counts V-VIII.
on the foregoing information and discussion, the court found
there was a factual basis for Movant's guilty pleas to
Counts I-IX, accepted the pleas, and found Movant made the
pleas voluntarily and knowingly. The court ordered a
sentencing assessment report and continued the matter for
sentencing hearing took place on December 19, 2013. The court
entered a judgment finding Movant guilty of Counts I-IX and
sentencing him to a total of nineteen years of
Movant's Rule 24.035 Motion, the Evidentiary Hearing, and
the Motion Court's Judgment
subsequently filed a pro se Rule 24.035 motion for
post-conviction relief. The motion court did not appoint
post-conviction counsel. However, an attorney from the
Missouri State Public Defender's office
("post-conviction counsel") entered an appearance
on behalf of Movant on December 10, 2014. The transcript of
Movant's guilty plea and sentencing hearing was filed
with the motion court on October 3, 2014.
counsel timely filed an amended motion for post-conviction
relief on January 21, 2015,  alleging Movant was denied his
right to effective assistance of counsel. Specifically,
Movant asserted Counsel was ineffective for failing to
properly advise Movant that the hand-to-genital contact
charged in Counts I-III did not fall within the applicable
statutory definitions of "deviate sexual
intercourse" for the entire time period alleged in those
charges, and as a result, he was entitled to have his guilty
pleas to Counts I-IX and his sentences for those counts
motion court granted Movant an evidentiary hearing regarding
Movant's claim. Movant testified via a deposition
admitted into evidence during the evidentiary hearing, and
Counsel testified at the hearing.
the motion court granted in part and denied in part
Movant's Rule 24.035 motion. The motion court's
judgment granted Movant some post-conviction relief with
respect to Counts I and II (the two counts of first-degree
statutory sodomy involving victim J.K.); specifically, the
court modified the underlying judgment to find Movant guilty
of the lesser-included offenses of first-degree child
molestation, vacated the sentences for Counts I and II, and
ordered resentencing as to those two counts. The motion
court's judgment denied Movant post-conviction relief in
all other respects. Before resentencing occurred on Counts I
and II, Movant filed this appeal.
initially note this case involves a unique procedural posture
because Movant filed his appeal before resentencing occurred
on Counts I and II. Movant raises one point on appeal,
asserting the motion court's judgment was clearly
Standard of Review and General Law
Court reviews a trial court's ruling on a Rule 24.035
motion for post-conviction relief only to determine if the
findings of fact and conclusions of law of the motion court
are clearly erroneous. Rule 24.035(k); Jones v.
State, 516 S.W.3d 447, 450 (Mo. App. E.D. 2017).
Findings and conclusions are clearly erroneous if, after a
review of the entire record, we are left with the definite
and firm impression that a mistake has been made.
Jones, 516 S.W.3d at 450. The motion court's
findings are presumed correct, and we defer to the motion
court's credibility determinations. Id.
guilty plea, this Court's review is limited to a
determination of whether the underlying plea was knowingly
and voluntarily made, and counsel's alleged
ineffectiveness is only relevant to the extent it affected
the voluntariness of the movant's plea. Whitley v.
State, 501 S.W.3d 531, 534 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016); see
Neal v. State, 379 S.W.3d 209, 215 (Mo. App. W.D. 2012)
(similarly finding). The movant has the burden of proving his
claims for post-conviction relief by a preponderance of the
evidence. Whitley, 501 S.W.3d at 534; Neal,
379 S.W.3d at 214-15; Rule 24.035(i). In order to prove a
claim of ineffective assistance of counsel following a guilty
plea, the movant must show counsel's representation fell
below an objective standard of reasonableness, and as a
result, the movant was prejudiced. Whitley, 501
S.W.3d at 534-35; Neal, 379 S.W.3d at 215. To
demonstrate prejudice after a guilty plea, the movant must
establish that but for his counsel's alleged unreasonable
conduct, there is a reasonable probability the result of the
proceeding would have been different, i.e., he would not have
pled guilty. Neal, 379 S.W.3d at 215-16 (citing
Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687, 694
(1984)); see Whitley, 501 S.W.3d at 535.