Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the
Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 16-F0758
Honorable Carl V. Sharp, Judge.
LOUISIANA APPELLATE PROJECT By: Edward K. Bauman Counsel for
S. TEW Counsel for Appellee District Attorney
DOUGLAS WALKER Assistant District Attorney
MOORE, COX, and STEPHENS, JJ.
Keith Sumler appeals as excessive his sentence of six years
at hard labor after his guilty plea to simple arson. His
attorney has filed an Anders brief and motion to
withdraw, alleging that he could find no nonfrivolous issues
to raise on appeal. For the reasons expressed, we grant the
motion to withdraw and affirm Sumler's conviction and
March 22, 2016, the 48-year-old Sumler called his 25-year-old
ex-boyfriend to say he was going to burn down his (the
boyfriend's) apartment, where the two of them had been
living together until recently. When the boyfriend arrived at
the eight-unit apartment building on Northeast Drive, his
unit was indeed in flames. Neighbors had seen Sumler ride
away on a bicycle, and one of them detained him at a nearby
gas station until police arrived. Sumler waived his
Miranda rights and admitted to Monroe Police
Department Officer Vanburen that he entered the apartment
through a window, put gasoline on the couch, and set the
place on fire because of issues he was having with the
ex-boyfriend. According to the police report, several people
in the apartment building had to be treated for smoke
inhalation, and according to the presentence investigation
report (PSI), seven of the eight units sustained smoke
damages totaling $120, 000.
was charged with aggravated arson, La. R.S. 14:51, and simple
burglary of an inhabited dwelling, La. R.S. 14:62.2, arising
from the fire at the Northeast Drive apartment, and with
aggravated criminal damage to property, La. R.S. 14:55,
arising from an incident in January in which he rammed his
car into the same ex-boyfriend's prior apartment, on
Selman Drive, causing $30, 000 in damages.
hearing in May 2017, the state announced it had reached a
plea agreement with Sumler: he would plead guilty to the
responsive charge of simple arson, with damages exceeding
$500, La. R.S. 14:52 B, and no agreement as to sentence. In
exchange, the state would drop the other two charges and file
no habitual offender bill. The court advised Sumler of his
rights under Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 89
S.Ct. 1709 (1969); he waived them and gave a factual
statement admitting all elements of the offense. He offered
that his love affair with the victim "went bad" and
he had been "drinking all day" before setting the
fire that night. The court accepted his guilty plea.
sentencing, in November 2017, the court reviewed Sumler's
PSI report: he was a fourth-felony offender with two priors
for simple possession of cocaine (but not for distribution)
and various misdemeanors. Defense counsel admitted that
Sumler had a drug problem for a time, but has been clean
since 2013. The court sentenced Sumler to six years at hard
labor, and imposed no fine.
counsel filed a motion to reconsider sentence, which the
trial court denied, and a motion for appeal, which the court
granted, assigning the case to the Louisiana Appellate
from the Louisiana Appellate Project has filed an
Anders brief and motion to withdraw, advising that
after a conscientious and thorough review of the trial record
he could find no nonfrivolous issues to raise on appeal.
Anders v. California, 368 U.S. 738, 87 S.Ct. 1396
(1967); State v. Jyles, 96-2669 (La. 12/12/97), 704
So.2d 241; State v. Benjamin, 573 So.2d 528 (La.App.
4 Cir. 1990). The brief outlines the procedural history of
the case and Sumler's plea agreement; it also gives a
"detailed and reviewable assessment" of whether the
appeal is worth pursuing in the first place, State v.
Jyles, supra. Counsel submits that the bill of
information did not specify which grade of simple arson was
charged, but the higher grade was clearly stated at the
Boykin hearing (for damage that exceeds $500, a
sentence of not less than two nor more than 15 years at hard
labor and a fine of not more than $15, 000), La. R.S. 14:52
Thus he concedes any deficiency in the bill of information
was harmless, State v. Fuller, ...