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Ryan v. State

Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc

May 22, 2018

CHARLES M. RYAN, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

          APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF ST. FRANCOIS COUNTY The Honorable Timothy W. Inman, Judge

          LAURA DENVIR STITH, JUDGE

         Charles Ryan appeals the motion court's judgment overruling his Rule 24.035 motion without an evidentiary hearing. He alleges his plea was involuntary because counsel did not inform him of a change in the plea offer until just before the plea hearing, did not meet with him to discuss the case prior to the plea hearing, and put undue pressure on him to accept the plea offer. This Court affirms, finding the record conclusively refutes the claims made in Mr. Ryan's motion.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         In August 2011, Mr. Ryan pled guilty to second-degree drug trafficking and was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment. The court placed him in a long-term drug treatment program in the department of corrections pursuant to section 217.362.[1] Upon successful completion of the program, he was eligible to have execution of his 15-year sentence suspended and to be released on probation. Id.

         In August 2012, while Mr. Ryan was taking part in the long-term drug treatment program at the department of corrections, the State brought charges against him for manufacturing a controlled substance in a separate incident that occurred prior to the trafficking conviction. The initial charge alleged Mr. Ryan had committed the class A felony of manufacturing a controlled substance within 2, 000 feet of a school under section 195.211.2.[2] In September 2012, the prosecutor reduced the charge to manufacturing a controlled substance, a class B felony under section 195.211.3, to which Mr. Ryan agreed to plead guilty in exchange for the State's recommendation of a suspended 15-year sentence and five years' probation.

         Mr. Ryan says the initial plea offer included a promise by the prosecutor to recommend the new sentence run concurrent with his 15-year trafficking sentence. But the morning of the plea hearing, the prosecutor withdrew that offer and said he would instead recommend the two sentences run consecutively. Mr. Ryan says his attorney recommended he take the revised plea offer because, otherwise, there would be a chance the prosecutor would proceed with the higher charge initially filed, risking a much harsher sentence.

         Mr. Ryan agreed to plead guilty pursuant to the revised plea offer despite his knowledge the prosecutor was going to recommend his sentence be made consecutive to his trafficking sentence. He and six other defendants in unrelated cases participated in a group plea proceeding. No defendant or attorney objected to the group plea procedure. The court advised the seven defendants of their rights and asked questions generally to the group. Each defendant stood in a line and answered the questions individually. In addition to the general questions, the court at various points asked specific questions to individual defendants to more effectively determine whether their pleas were knowing, intelligent, and voluntary. The court accepted Mr. Ryan's plea and imposed a suspended 15-year sentence consistent with the recommendation, to run consecutively to his 15-year sentence for trafficking, and put him on five years' probation. A few months later, Mr. Ryan successfully completed the long-term drug treatment program in which he was serving pursuant to his trafficking conviction, and the court ordered his release on probation.

         In September 2014, Mr. Ryan violated the conditions of his release on both convictions. The court revoked his probation and executed his previously suspended consecutive 15-year sentences for both convictions. Mr. Ryan filed a Rule 24.035 motion challenging only his conviction in 2012 for drug manufacturing.[3] The motion court appointed counsel for Mr. Ryan, who filed an amended motion asserting Mr. Ryan's plea counsel was ineffective for inducing an involuntary guilty plea by: (1) informing Mr. Ryan of a change in the State's offer only minutes before he entered his plea, (2) failing to discuss the facts of the case with Mr. Ryan before the plea, and (3) intimidating Mr. Ryan into accepting the revised plea offer by saying he would receive a harsher sentence if he did not accept the State's revised offer.

         The motion court overruled Mr. Ryan's motion without an evidentiary hearing on the ground the record conclusively refuted his claims, in that "[t]hroughout the record of [Mr. Ryan's] guilty plea he unequivocally assured the Court he was satisfied with the efforts of his attorney." Mr. Ryan's sole point on appeal is that, when looking at the totality of the circumstances, including that his plea was part of a group plea, the record does not conclusively refute the claims in his amended motion. He requests this Court vacate the conviction or, in the alternative, remand for an evidentiary hearing. For the reasons set forth below, this Court affirms.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When reviewing the motion court's denial of postconviction relief, this Court "is limited to a determination of whether the findings of fact and conclusions of law of the motion court are clearly erroneous." DePriest v. State, 510 S.W.3d 331, 337 (Mo. banc 2017). "Findings and conclusions are clearly erroneous if, after a review of the entire record, the court is left with the definite and firm impression that a mistake has been made." Price v. State, 422 S.W.3d 292, 294 (Mo. banc 2014).

         III. THE RECORD CONCLUSIVELY REFUTES COERCION OR A FAILURE TO TIMELY COMMUNICATE A PLEA OFFER

         To be entitled to postconviction relief due to ineffective assistance of counsel, "a movant must demonstrate that: (1) defense counsel failed to exercise the level of skill and diligence that a reasonably competent counsel would in a similar situation, and (2) he or she was prejudiced by that failure." McIntosh v. State,413 S.W.3d 320, 324 (Mo. banc 2013), citing, Strickland v. Washington,466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984). To be entitled to an evidentiary hearing, (1) the movant must allege "facts, not conclusions, warranting relief; (2) the facts alleged [must] not [be] refuted conclusively by the record; and (3) the matters complained of [must have] resulted in prejudice to the movant." at 323-24. The "prejudice[] requirement focuses on whether counsel's constitutionally ineffective performance affected the outcome of the plea process." Coates v. State,939 S.W.2d 912, 914 (Mo. banc 1997) ...


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