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State v. Young

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

May 9, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
MCKARTNEY YOUNG

          APPEAL FROM THE FOURTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF CALCASIEU, NOS. 18591-14 & 6713-15 HONORABLE CLAYTON DAVIS, DISTRICT JUDGE

          John Foster DeRosier Fourteenth Judicial District Attorney Brett Gaspard Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth B. Hollins Assistant District Attorney Karen C. McLellan Assistant District Attorney Carla S. Sigler Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT: State of Louisiana

          Todd S. Clemons Todd Clemons & Associates COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE: McKartney Young

          Court composed of John D. Saunders, Elizabeth A. Pickett, and Shannon J. Gremillion, Judges.

          SHANNON J. GREMILLION JUDGE

         The State of Louisiana appeals the sentence imposed on Defendant/Appellee, McKartney Young, who was adjudicated a third felony offender pursuant to La.R.S. 15:529.1. The State contends that the sentence was illegally lenient. For the reasons that follow, we vacate Defendant's sentence and remand the matter to the trial court for resentencing in accordance with this opinion.

         FACTS

         Defendant was indicted by a Calcasieu Parish grand jury with Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance-Schedule II (cocaine) with intent to distribute, a violation of La.R.S. 40:967, and Possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance- Schedule V (codeine) with intent to distribute, a violation of La.R.S. 40:970. Plea negotiations ensued Defendant's entry of a plea of not guilty. Despite the fact that he had not reached an agreement with the State on the recommended sentences, Defendant entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to five years imprisonment on each charge.[1] These sentences were to run concurrently with each other and with a probation violation he was serving at the time.

         The State then charged Defendant with being a fourth habitual offender pursuant to La.R.S. 15:529.1. Defendant denied the charge. At the hearing on the habitual offender charge, the trial court adjudicated Defendant a habitual offender, vacated the sentences imposed at Defendant's entry of the guilty pleas, and sentenced Defendant to twenty years imprisonment without benefit or probation, parole, or suspension of sentence.

         Defendant filed a motion for new trial and reconsideration of sentence, which the trial court granted. At the new trial on the habitual offender bill, the State introduced evidence to prove that Defendant had been convicted in 2005 of simple burglary and possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance-Schedule IV, in 2011 of possession of a Controlled Dangerous Substance-Schedule II, and of the 2015 guilty pleas referenced above. According to the testimony of Defendant's attorney at the time of his plea, while the State regularly threatened defendants with being charged as habitual offenders if they rejected a plea offer, Defendant's case was the first and only time he had actually seen the State carry through with such a threat following the entry of a guilty plea. Testimony was also adduced that Defendant had been charged with involvement in a homicide, but the State had dismissed the charges for lack of evidence. That attorney also testified that the State's offer of recommending a sentence of twenty years before the pleas were taken was so high because the State felt that Defendant "had beat a murder charge."[2] Defendant also pointed out to the trial court that the relevant statute, La.R.S. 15:529.1, had been amended in 2017 to lessen the minimum sentence for a fourth and subsequent nonviolent offender from thirty years to twenty years. See 2017 La. Acts No. 82.

         The trial court again adjudicated Defendant a habitual offender. The following discussion occurred:

THE DEFENDANT:
Judge Davis. I'm sorry. Yeah. I'm just here just asking for one more chance to show leniency, man. I just had a two-week-old kid. And the things I did in the past, I ain't going to do them no more, and I'm just asking you for one more chance.
MR. CLEMONS:
And, judge, I would like to -- my client's, also, father is dying with stage 3 -- stage 4 cancer, judge. I just wanted to point that out to the Court.
THE COURT:
Well, I am convinced based on the testimony and based on, you know, things -- information swirls around. Somehow, I remember, some sort, along the way the hint or the suggestion that the murder charge incident was driving a lot of the activities in this case, you know, on these unrelated drug charges. Plus we do have testimony from the last hearing that -- from the attorney that confirmed that. That's very troubling that that would be a driving force on unrelated drug charges that are nonviolent.
I accept that, and that's part of my decision today to maintain the prior 5 years DOC on all matters to run concurrent, that along with the compelling argument made regarding the change in the law.
Obviously, we can't go back and apply that retroactively, but I wish we could because -- the legislature has done that because it makes so much sense to reduce the timeline or timeframe to allow or to prevent prosecutors from imposing this Habitual Offender Law. And, finally, the obvious facts that these are all drug related, they're not crimes of violence, that is a compelling reason as well.
So I'm comfortable that this is appropriate, the right thing to do. It's constitutionally mandated for the Court to take note of all these matters and avoid an excessive sentence under these circumstances. Okay?
MR. GASPARD:
And, Judge, just for the record, is he -- he's being sentenced as to both charges, the possession of CDS II of intent to distribute cocaine and --
THE COURT:
Well, you know, on that matter, that's -- that's an odd -- an odd set of circumstances. I don't -- pardon me?
DEPUTY CLERK:
Where are those other charges that we're talking about, because the only thing we have is the third and subsequent --
MR. GASPARD:
Oh, I'm sorry.
DEPUTY CLERK:
-- habitual offender?
MR. GASPARD:
It's -- it's going to be under a different docket number that he pled to.
DEPUTY CLERK:
What is it?
MR. GASPARD:
It's going to be under -- let's see -- docket No. 18591-14, that's what he had pled to, and then that was the underlying --some of the underlying charges for the habitual offender bill.
THE COURT:
From --
MR. CLEMONS:
And then you --
THE COURT:
-- a technical standpoint ...

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