Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, Second Division
From The Circuit Court Of Polk County Honorable Judge Michael
W. SHEFFIELD, J.
Joe Altic, Jr. ("Movant") appeals the motion
court's denial of his Rule 29.15 motion for post-conviction
relief after an evidentiary hearing. Movant claims that the
attorney who represented him at trial, Stephanie Bullard
("trial counsel"), was ineffective. We find no
clear error in the motion court's denial of Movant's
Rule 29.15 motion, and affirm.
9, 2013, around 5:30 p.m., Victim and her husband drove her
black 1999 Honda Accord to a store in Polk County, where they
parked and left the keys in the car. When Victim's
husband returned to the parking lot seven or eight minutes
later, Victim's car was missing. Victim's car was
found later that evening in the parking lot of a church
located in Greene County.
Margaret Morton ("Officer Morton") testified that
she viewed the store's video that showed Victim's car
as it entered the parking lot, and also showed Movant
entering the store shortly after Victim. Officer Morton
stated that she was dispatched to the store and arrived at
5:46 p.m.-about 15 minutes after Movant was shown entering
the store according to the video's time-stamp. Movant was
no longer at the store when she arrived.
Bagwell ("Pastor"), a pastor at a Greene County
church, testified that he saw a man with a parked car in his
church parking lot on May 9, 2013, sometime between 6:30 and
7:00 p.m. The man was standing behind the vehicle with the
trunk open. He identified himself as "A.J." and
explained to Pastor that his car had overheated. The car was
subsequently identified as Victim's car. Pastor later
identified Movant as the man in the parking lot in both a
photographic lineup and in court.
was charged as a prior and persistent offender with one count
of the class C felony of stealing under §
570.030. At the conclusion of Movant's bench
trial, the court found Movant guilty.
filed a post-conviction motion, which was amended, alleging
ineffective assistance of counsel ("Amended
Motion"). In his Amended Motion, Movant alleged that
trial counsel was ineffective for "erroneously
convincing him he could not be convicted at trial on the
charge of stealing a motor vehicle because there was no
eyewitness to the crime in Polk County." He claimed this
advice prejudiced him because he rejected a settlement offer
based on trial counsel's advice, and is now serving a
longer sentence than the one contained in the plea offer.
motion court held an evidentiary hearing regarding the claims
in the Amended Motion. Both Movant and trial counsel
testified at the evidentiary hearing. The motion court
entered findings of fact and conclusions of law denying
Movant's post-conviction motion on April 2, 2018. This
movant in a post-conviction case is granted an evidentiary
hearing, the movant has the burden of proving his claims by a
preponderance of the evidence. Rule 29.15(i). This
Court's review of the denial of a post-conviction motion
"shall be limited to a determination of whether the
findings and conclusions of the trial court are clearly
erroneous." Rule 29.15(k); see Wrice v. State,
485 S.W.3d 382, 384 (Mo. App. E.D. 2016). "The motion
court's judgment is clearly erroneous only if this Court
is left with a definite and firm impression that a mistake
has been made." Mallow v. State, 439 S.W.3d
764, 768 (Mo. banc 2014). The findings of the motion court
are presumed correct. Id. This Court gives deference
to the motion court's credibility determinations.
Arata v. State, 509 S.W.3d 849, 852 (Mo. App. S.D.
sole point on appeal, Movant claims trial counsel was
ineffective "by advising him to reject the State's
plea offer because there was not legally sufficient evidence
to convict him of the offense for which he was charged, as
she neglected substantial circumstantial evidence that proved
all the elements of the offense[.]" Movant argued he was
prejudiced because he rejected the State's plea offer
based on trial counsel's erroneous advice, and is now
serving a longer sentence instead of a shorter sentence as
contained in the earlier plea offer. This claim is without
merit because ...