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Williams v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Fourth Division

May 22, 2018

MICHAEL E. WILLIAMS, Appellant/Movant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Warren County 16BB-CC00084 Honorable Wesley C. Dalton

          OPINION

          Honorable Mary K. Hoff, Judge

         Michael E. Williams ("Movant") appeals from the "Memorandum, Decision, and Judgment Denying Motion for Post-Conviction Relief" ("Judgment") denying his Rule 24.035 motion following an evidentiary hearing. We reverse the motion court's judgment, vacate Movant's guilty plea and sentence, and remand.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Movant was charged as a chronic offender with driving while intoxicated, in violation of Section 577.010, RSMo 2000.[1] On July 5, 2016, Movant pleaded guilty plea to the charged offense.

         During the plea hearing, Movant told the court that he had enough time to discuss his case with his attorney and that he had no complaint about how his attorney had handled his case. Movant also affirmed that he understood the specific constitutional rights attendant with a trial and appeal that he was giving up by pleading guilty.

         Following the prosecutor's recitation of the underlying facts, Movant admitted that on November 29, 2013, he operated a motor vehicle in Warren County while under the influence of alcohol and also admitted to four prior convictions for driving while intoxicated.

         Thereafter, the court asked Movant if he had a plea agreement. Movant responded that he did. The court then told Movant that, "I'm gonna follow that plea agreement. If I didn't follow it I'll let you withdraw your plea." Movant then told the court that he understood the full range of punishment was five to fifteen years imprisonment. The court found a factual basis for Movant's guilty plea, that Movant's plea was voluntary and unequivocal, and accepted Movant's guilty plea.

         After plea counsel waived the sentencing assessment report, the court announced that it would follow the plea agreement. The court sentenced Movant to eight-years' imprisonment but retained jurisdiction and sentenced Movant to Long Term Drug Program ("LTDP"), pursuant to Section 217.362.[2]

         On November 28, 2016, Movant timely filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief pursuant to Rule 24.035. On December 1, 2016, the motion court appointed post-conviction counsel. On February 9, 2017, appointed counsel sought an extension of time to file the amended motion, which was granted by the motion court.

         On March 2, 2017, appointed counsel timely filed an amended motion, in which he claimed, inter alia, that after Movant was delivered to the custody of the Department of Corrections ("DOC"), he was found to be ineligible for the long-term treatment program due to an insufficient number of felony convictions. Movant claimed that his guilty plea was not voluntary, knowing, or intelligent because he was denied effective assistance of counsel when his plea counsel told Movant that he would be placed in LTDP. Movant further claimed that he was denied due process by the sentencing court's failure to determine whether Movant was eligible for the program.

         On May 4, 2017, an evidentiary hearing was held before the motion court. Movant testified that he was found to be ineligible for LTDP because he lacked three felony convictions. Movant testified that plea counsel advised him that if he pleaded guilty he would be placed in LTDP. Movant believed counsel had checked to determine his eligibility for the treatment program and that she had determined that Movant was eligible. Movant also believed that the court had checked and had determined that he was eligible for the program. Movant testified that he pleaded guilty because he believed he would be placed in LTDP and that he would not have pleaded guilty had he known he was ineligible.

         Katie Thoman ("Ms. Thoman") testified that she had represented Movant in his criminal case. She testified that Movant pleaded guilty to an eight-year sentence with long-term treatment, but he was not placed in LTDP because he did not have the requisite prior convictions. Ms. Thoman testified that a person has to have two prior felony convictions and a new one, and Movant did not have them. Before he pleaded guilty, Ms. Thoman met with Movant and they discussed the case. She told him the plea recommendation from the prosecutor was for an eight-year sentence with long-term treatment.

         Ms. Thoman testified that she had told Movant that if he pleaded guilty, he would go to the DOC and probably serve a portion of his sentence before he was placed in the year-long program, so that he would be released after two years, having completed the program. Ms. Thoman testified that in Movant's current situation, he would still become eligible for parole after serving two years in the DOC. Ms. Thoman admitted that she had assumed ...


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