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Sturgill v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

September 15, 2017

JIMMIE STURGILL APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY APPELLEE

         APPEALS FROM HARDIN CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE KELLY MARK EASTON, JUDGE ACTION NOS. 12-CR-00337 & 13-CR-00179

          BRIEF FOR APPELLANT: Steven J. Buck Assistant Public Advocate

          BRIEF FOR APPELLEE: Andy Beshear Attorney General of Kentucky M. Brandon Roberts Assistant Attorney General

          BEFORE: ACREE, DIXON, AND JONES, JUDGES.

          OPINION

          JONES, JUDGE:

          Jimmie Sturgill appeals from two Hardin Circuit Court judgments after entering guilty pleas to multiple charges under two separate indictments. By order of this Court, the appeals have been consolidated for all purposes, including briefing. Sturgill raises two arguments: first, that the trial court erred in denying his motion to withdraw the guilty pleas, and second, that he was entitled to conflict counsel. Upon review, we conclude that Sturgill was effectively without counsel in asserting his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. As a result, we must vacate the judgment and remand for further proceedings.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Sturgill faced two separate Hardin Circuit Court indictments: case numbers 12-CR-00337 and 13-CR-00179. After several of the charges in case number 12-CR-00337 were severed, Sturgill was tried and found guilty of twelve counts of unlawful use of electronic means to induce a minor to engage in sexual or other prohibited activities. He received a sentence of five years. He filed a direct appeal of the final judgment which is currently being held in abeyance pending the outcome of the present appeal.[1]

         Sturgill also went to trial in case number 13-CR-00179 on a charge of first-degree sodomy. That trial resulted in a hung jury. The Commonwealth then offered Sturgill the opportunity to plead guilty to an amended charge of first-degree sexual abuse in return for a recommendation of a one-year sentence, to run consecutively to the five-year sentence he received following the trial in case number 12-CR-00337.

         The Commonwealth also offered Sturgill the opportunity to resolve the charges remaining in case number 12-CR-00337. In exchange for a plea of guilty to two charges of first-degree sexual abuse, the Commonwealth agreed to recommend five-year sentences on each charge, to run concurrently with one another and concurrently with the five-year sentence Sturgill already had under that indictment. The agreement also required Sturgill to waive his right to appeal the jury verdict in case number 12-CR-00337. Sturgill accepted and signed both offers.

         Under case number 13-CR-00179, the facts set forth in the guilty plea offer stated "[t]hat between April 6, 2010 and June 6, 2010, in Hardin County, Kentucky, the Defendant subjected the juvenile, A.P. to sexual contact. Victim was less than 16 and the Defendant was in a position of authority." Under case number 12-CR-00337, the facts set forth in the guilty plea offer stated "[t]hat between July 31, 2009 and August 1, 2009 and again on August 21, 2009, in Hardin County Kentucky, the Defendant subjected the juvenile, A.B., to sexual contact, by forcible compulsion. Victim was 9 years old."

         On February 27, 2014, the trial court held a hearing on Sturgill's motion to enter the guilty pleas. Sturgill confirmed that he and his attorney had discussed the charges, the possible penalties, and his options should he choose to defend against the charges. He stated that he was satisfied that he fully understood his legal situation and what it meant to enter the guilty pleas. The trial court read aloud a list of the constitutional rights Sturgill would be waiving by pleading guilty. Sturgill stated that he had not been influenced or forced in any way to enter the guilty pleas against his will, and that entering the pleas was in his best interest.

         Sturgill also acknowledged that he read and understood the guilty plea forms before signing them. The trial court informed Sturgill that, by entering the guilty pleas, he would be telling the court that he was satisfied with his attorney's work on his case and that there was not anything left undone that he wanted his attorney to do that would make a difference to him in the decision to plead guilty. The trial court also told Sturgill that he would be stating that he was actually guilty and would not be making an unspoken claim of being innocent. Sturgill said he was satisfied with the services and advice of his attorney, and that he was ready to proceed with his guilty pleas.

         Sturgill further assured the court that no one, including his attorney, had made any kind of promise that differed from what was set forth on the written forms. The trial court noted that Sturgill would be waiving his right to appeal the portion of case number 12-CR-00337 that went to trial. The trial court also asked him if the statements of fact on the guilty plea forms were truthful statements of what he did, and Sturgill said they were. The trial court found that Sturgill was making knowing, ...


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