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State v. Granado

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Third Circuit

December 6, 2018

STATE OF LOUISIANA
v.
CHRISTOPHER GRANADO

          APPEAL FROM THE THIRTIETH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF VERNON, NO. 89546 HONORABLE C. ANTHONY EAVES, DISTRICT JUDGE

          Allen Skinner District Attorney Terry Lambright Assistant District Attorney COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE: State of Louisiana

          Stephen H. Shapiro Attorney at Law COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLANT: Christopher Granado

          Court composed of Elizabeth A. Pickett, Shannon J. Gremillion, and John E. Conery, Judges.

          JOHN E. CONERY JUDGE

         Defendant Christopher Granado was indicted on June 2, 2016, as a principal to racketeering, a violation of La.R.S. 14:24 and 15:1353, for alleged offenses occurring from February 1, 2015 to March 9, 2016. On January 9, 2016, Defendant entered an open-ended plea of guilty to racketeering. The trial judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation report (PSI) and set sentencing for February 6, 2018. At the sentencing hearing, the trial court reviewed Defendant's PSI and the State's sentencing memorandum. After taking into consideration the sentencing guidelines provided by La.Code Crim.P. art. 894, Defendant was sentenced to forty years at hard labor with credit for time served and fined $50, 000.00 plus court costs. Defendant then filed a pro se motion for amendment of sentence and to withdraw plea agreement, which was denied by the trial court. Additionally, Defendant's counsel filed a motion to reconsider sentence, which was also denied by the trial court. Defendant now seeks review of his sentence and his motion to withdraw his plea, asserting two assignments of error. For the following reasons, we affirm Defendant's conviction and sentence.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This appeal arises out of Defendant's indictment and conviction on the charges of principal to racketeering, in violation of La.R.S. 14:24 and 15:1353. On January 27, 2016, Defendant and Ms. Hernandez-Quezada were arrested for selling methamphetamine in DeRidder, located in Beauregard Parish, Louisiana. On June 2, 2016, Defendant was indicted by a grand jury as a principal to racketeering, in violation of La.R.S. 14:24 and 15:1353 and conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, a Schedule II Controlled Dangerous Substance, in violation of La.R.S. 40:967(A). Defendant was arraigned and pled not guilty to the above charges.

         On January 9, 2018, Defendant entered an Alford plea to racketeering pursuant to a plea agreement.[1] In return for Defendant's Alford plea, the State agreed to dismiss the charge of conspiracy to distribute a schedule II controlled dangerous substance, in violation of La.R.S. 40:967(A). The trial court accepted Defendant's plea and entered the plea agreement and waiver of constitutional rights forms into the record. On February 26, 2018, Defendant was sentenced to forty years at hard labor with credit for time served since the date of arrest and fined $50, 000.00 plus court costs.

         Defendant then filed a pro se motion for amendment of sentence and motion to withdraw plea agreement on March 19, 2018. Through counsel, Defendant filed a motion to reconsider sentence on March 20, 2018. Both motions were denied by the trial court on April 6, 2018. Defendant now appeals his sentence and the trial court's denial of his motion to withdraw his plea.

         ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

1. The district court erred in denying Christopher Granado's Motion to Withdraw his Guilty Plea as not knowingly and voluntarily [sic] when Mr. Granado's counsel failed to properly and accurately communicate the State's plea offer to Mr. Granado: (1) by advising Mr. Granado that he would be sentenced to a prison term of 7-years; and (2) when Mr. Granado reasonably relied on his counsel's statement and pled guilty on the strength of counsel's advice.
2. The district court erred in imposing on [sic] a prison sentence of 40 years on Christopher Granado because this sentence was grossly excessive under the facts, circumstances, and sentencing factors.

         ERRORS PATENT

         In accordance with La.Code Crim.P. art. 920, all appeals are reviewed for errors patent on the face of the record. After reviewing the record, we find there are no errors patent.

         LAW AND DISCUSSION

         Assignment of Error No. 1

         In his first assigned error, Defendant contends the trial court erroneously denied his motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Defendant argues his guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily made because his counsel failed to properly and accurately communicate the State's plea offer. Specifically, Defendant alleges counsel advised him he would be sentenced to a prison term of seven years. Defendant alleges that he reasonably relied on counsel's statement and pled guilty on the strength of counsel's advice. He further contends that counsel was ineffective.

[A] guilty plea is constitutionally infirm when a defendant is induced to enter that plea by a plea bargain or by what he justifiably believes was a plea bargain, and that bargain is not kept. In such a case a defendant has been denied due process of law because the plea was not given freely and knowingly.

State v. Dixon, 449 So.2d 463, 464 (La.1984). See also State v. Filer, 99-626 (La.App. 3 Cir. 9/20/00), 771 So.2d 700, writ denied, 00-2918 (La. 9/21/01), 797 So.2d 63.

         Our review of the record indicates that Defendant made the plea knowingly and voluntarily. Moreover, there is no indication that the State ever promised a specific sentence term, or that such information was ever communicated to Defendant. The record fails to show that Defendant ever at any time prior to the imposition of his sentence indicated his disagreement with any part of his plea agreement. In fact, the colloquy between ...


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