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Cranford v. State

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, Fourth Division

May 28, 2019

LEO A. CRANFORD, Appellant,
v.
STATE OF MISSOURI, Respondent.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of Pettis County, Missouri The Honorable Robert L. Koffman, Judge

          Before: Karen King Mitchell, Chief Judge, and Alok Ahuja and Cynthia L. Martin, Judges

          OPINION

          KARENJKING MITCHELL, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Leo Cranford appeals, following an evidentiary hearing, the denial of his Rule 24.035[1] motion for post-conviction relief. Cranford raises a single point on appeal; he argues that plea counsel provided ineffective assistance in failing to advise him that his sentence for first-degree child molestation under § 566.067[2] had to be served without eligibility for parole and that his conviction of first-degree statutory sodomy under § 566.062 required him to serve at least 85% of his sentence before becoming parole eligible. The motion court overruled Cranford's motion on the ground that parole eligibility is a collateral consequence of a guilty plea about which counsel has no duty to inform a client and, therefore, the failure to do so did not amount to ineffective assistance. Finding no error, we affirm.

         Background

         On June 20, 2016, Cranford appeared before the plea court to enter guilty pleas to first-degree child molestation and first-degree statutory sodomy. At the hearing, the plea court discussed the various rights attendant to a trial that Cranford was relinquishing by pleading guilty; Cranford acknowledged understanding them all and affirmed that he wished to proceed with his pleas. Cranford advised the court that he was pleading guilty of his own free will because he had committed the crimes with which he was charged. The prosecutor then established the following factual basis for Cranford's crimes:

On July 29th of last year, the Defendant was in charge of the care of the child alleged by initials in Counts I and II. That child was two years old. While the Defendant was left in charge of that child, the parents were planning to make a quick run to town. When they left the home, they quickly realized they had forgotten something, [so] they returned to the home. When they returned, Mr. Cranford was nowhere to be found.
The mother initially went to look to try to locate Mr. Cranford while the father went in to check on the child. When the father walked in shortly followed by the mother, they found their two-year-old laying on the bed with her diaper pulled down and the Defendant on his knees standing-kneeling over the child with his penis exposed.
As the father came in, initially to make contact with the Defendant, the Defendant got up and left the home and announced that he was leaving to go turn himself in and ran out of the home. He shortly thereafter returned-went down to the Sheriff's Department, walked in and notified two separate officers that he was there to turn himself in and indicated that he [had] almost relapsed. He says almost.
He then later was [M]irandized and confessed to walking into the room shortly after the parents left, pulling down the two-year-old's diaper, pulling his pants down and beginning to fondle her vagina shortly before the parents walked back in and interrupted the events. He was placed under arrest and, obviously, that's what brings [this] before us.
I note the statement that he [had] almost relapsed because the Defendant, as alleged and as noted to the Court in Count II, has a prior-is a prior convicted sexual offender.

         Following the prosecutor's recitation and the plea court's description of an "open plea," the plea court asked Cranford if he wished to proceed with his pleas or if he wished to withdraw them and proceed to trial. Cranford responded, "I'll maintain my plea." The plea court accepted the pleas and set the matter for sentencing.

         At sentencing, the State requested the maximum sentence available on both counts (30 years' imprisonment) and asked that the sentences be run consecutively. Plea counsel sought concurrent ten-year terms. While the plea court was discussing with Cranford its rationale for the sentence it was about to hand down, the prosecutor noted that the first-degree child molestation conviction was, by statute, a "parole-free sentence." The court then noted that if it imposed the maximum sentence, Cranford would be "100 years old by the time [he] came out." The plea court then pronounced Cranford's sentences:

So it is the intent of this Court to sentence you to 30 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections on each sentence, and I'm not going to run them consecutive to each other. This is an AOWP, [3] you're going to do 30 anyway. You will be at an age when you get out, unless the law changes, where you will be incapable, in my opinion, of doing this conduct in the future, which is the goal. I won't run them consecutive because you turned yourself in and said I did it. But ...

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