in the Court of Appeals 10 April 2019.
by Defendant from judgment entered 10 April 2018 by Judge J.
Thomas Davis in Buncombe County Nos. 17CRS81131, 17CRS8113133
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney
General Candace A. Hoffman, for the State.
of the Appellate Defender, by Emily Holmes Davis, for
appeals from an order denying his Motion to Withdraw Plea and
Motion for Appropriate Relief. Defendant argues that the
trial court erred by denying the motions because
circumstances demonstrate that the withdrawal of
Defendant's guilty plea would prevent manifest injustice.
Factual Background and Procedural History
April 2018, Defendant pled guilty to felony possession with
intent to manufacture, sell, or deliver marijuana; felony
possession of marijuana; and felony maintaining a vehicle for
controlled substance. During the plea hearing, Defendant
admitted to transporting and delivering approximately three
pounds of marijuana to Asheville; answered affirmatively when
asked by the court if he understood the felony charges to
which he was pleading guilty; and answered affirmatively when
asked by the court if he was, in fact, guilty of all three
felony charges. The court consolidated Defendant's three
convictions for judgment, sentenced Defendant to a term of 6
to 17 months' imprisonment, suspended the sentence, and
placed Defendant on supervised probation for 24 months. The
court also assessed $972.50 in costs, ordered Defendant to
complete 72 hours of community service within the first 150
days, and required Defendant to report for an initial
substance abuse assessment.
April 2018, Defendant filed a Motion to Withdraw Plea and
Motion for Appropriate Relief ("Motion"), alleging
that he "felt dazed and confused at the time of the plea
due to lack of sleep and due to medications he was
taking;" "did not understand he was pleading guilty
to three felonies and . . . did not understand what three
felonies being consolidated into one judgment meant;"
"did not feel he had appropriate time to consider the
plea agreement and felt pressured to make a decision
regarding his plea;" and believed his decision to plead
guilty would "have negative employment ramifications . .
. that he was not aware of at the time he entered his
April 2018, the Motion was heard in superior court. At the
hearing, when the State asked Defendant if he had three
pounds of marijuana in his car on the date of the offense,
Defendant replied, "Yea, I guess." Defendant
testified that "nobody threatened or coerced" him
into taking a plea, and that he was not promised anything for
taking the plea. When asked if he understood what crimes he
was charged with and whether he had discussed possible
defenses with his attorney, Defendant replied "yes"
and "yes, sir." Moreover, when Defendant was asked
whether, at the time of the plea hearing, he understood that
he was pleading guilty to three felony charges, Defendant
relied "yes." Despite these statements and
admissions, however, when asked by the State whether he was
asserting his legal innocence, Defendant replied, "I am
conclusion of the hearing, the court announced extensive
findings of fact in support of its conclusion that the Motion
was without merit, and denied the Motion. On 24 April 2018,
the court entered a written order reflecting its ruling from
the bench. The court made the following written findings of
. . . .
2. Based on the testimony of the Defendant, as well as the
observations and understandings of the Court regarding his
trial, the Defendant was not only aware of the factual
circumstances against him, he was also aware of the pleas
that he had been offered to him by the State and that the
Defendant basically simply took a position of not doing
anything until the trial date.
3. On the morning of April 10, 2018, the Court heard the
Defendant's Motion to Suppress. That Motion to Suppress
was denied prior to the Court's lunch recess at 12:30 pm
and that the State was ready to proceed with the
Defendant's trial. Following the denial of the
Defendant's Motion to Suppress but prior to the lunch
recess, the Defendant was given an opportunity to consider
whether to accept a plea offer or go to trial. The Court
recessed from 12:30 until 2:00 to give the Defendant an
opportunity to consider what was available to him and also to
consider whether he wanted to proceed at trial. Furthermore,
the Court paused for a period of time ...