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State v. Chandler

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

April 16, 2019

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
KENNETH CALVIN CHANDLER, Defendant.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 31 October 2018.

          Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 11 August 2017 by Judge Mark E. Powell in Madison County No. 15CRS050222 Superior Court.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney General Jennifer T. Harrod, for the State.

          Appellate Defender Glenn Gerding, by Assistant Appellate Defender Katherine Jane Allen, for the defendant-appellant.

          BERGER, JUDGE.

         A Madison County jury found Kenneth Calvin Chandler ("Defendant") guilty of first-degree sex offense with a child and taking indecent liberties with a child. Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial judge improperly refused to accept a tendered guilty plea in violation of the statutory mandate in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1023(c). We disagree.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Defendant was indicted for first-degree sex offense with a child and indecent liberties with a child. Defendant reached a plea agreement with the State and signed a standard AOC-CR-300 Transcript of Plea to resolve these charges on February 6, 2017. Defendant's Transcript of Plea was also signed by his attorney and the prosecutor.

         On page one of the Transcript of Plea, there are three boxes available to describe the type of plea a defendant is entering: (1) guilty, (2) guilty pursuant to Alford decision, and (3) no contest. Defendant checked that he was pleading guilty.

         Page two of the Transcript of Plea has standard questions concerning the type of plea entered. In response to question 13, "Do you now personally plead guilty, [or] no contest to the charges I just described[, ]" Defendant checked the box marked "guilty," and answered in the affirmative. Question 14 has subparts (a), (b), and (c). Each subpart concerns the different pleas available to a defendant. Subpart (a) is used with a guilty plea, (b) is for no contest pleas, and (c) is specifically for Alford pleas. Because Defendant was pleading guilty, in response to the question in subpart (a), "Are you in fact guilty[, ]" Defendant again answered in the affirmative on the Transcript of Plea.

         Page three of the Transcript of Plea addresses the plea arrangement made by the State. According to the Transcript of Plea, in exchange for Defendant's guilty plea, the State agreed to dismiss the charge of first degree sex offense. Page three also contains signature lines for Defendant, defense counsel, and the prosecutor. Defendant acknowledged that the terms and conditions stated in the Transcript of Plea were accurate. Defense counsel certified that he and Defendant agreed to the terms and conditions stated in the Transcript of Plea. The prosecutor's certification states that the conditions stated in the Transcript of Plea were agreed to by all parties for entry of the plea.

         On February 7, 2017, the State called Defendant's case and indicated to the trial court that the Defendant planned to enter a plea. The prosecutor asked defense counsel how Defendant pleaded, and defense counsel responded, "Pursuant to negotiations, guilty." The Transcript of Plea was submitted to the trial court, and during the colloquy with Defendant, the following exchange occurred:

[The Court:] Do you understand that you are pleading guilty to the following charge: 15 CRS 50222, one count of indecent liberties with a minor child, the date of offense is April 19 to April 20, 2015, that is a Class F felony, maximum punishment 59 months?
[Defendant:] Yes, sir.
[The Court:] Do you now personally plead guilty to the charges I just described?
[Defendant:] Yes, sir.
[The Court:] Are you, in fact, guilty?
[Defendant:] Yes, sir.
[The Court:] Now, I want to make sure you understand - you hesitated a little bit there and looked up at the ceiling. I want to make sure that you understand that you're pleading guilty to the charge. If you need additional time to talk to [defense counsel] and discuss it further or if there's any question about it in your mind, please let me know now, because I want to make sure that you understand exactly what you're doing.
[Defendant:] Well, the reason I'm pleading guilty is to keep my granddaughter from having to go through more trauma and go through court.
[The Court:] Okay.
[Defendant:] I did not do that, but I will plead guilty to the charge to keep her from being more traumatized.
[The Court:] Okay, I understand, [Defendant]. Let me explain something to you. I practiced law 28 years before I became a judge 17 years ago, and I did many trials and many pleas of guilty and represented a lot of folks over the years. And I always told my clients, I will not plead you guilty unless you are, in fact, guilty. I will not plead you guilty if you say "I'm doing it because of something else. I didn't do it." And that's exactly what you told me just then, "I didn't do it." So for that reason I'm not going to accept your plea. Another judge may accept it, but I will never, ever, accept a plea from someone who says, "I'm doing it because of another reason, I really didn't do it." And I'm not upset with you or anything like that, I just refuse to let anyone do anything, plead guilty to anything, that they did not - they say they did not do. I want to make sure that you understand you have the right to a trial, a jury trial. Do you understand?
[Defendant:] Yeah, I understand that. We discussed that, me ...

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