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State v. Hodges

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

December 14, 2017

STATE OF OHIO PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
JAVONTE HODGES DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

         Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-12-562692-C

          APPELLANT Javonte Hodges, pro se Inmate No. 634308 Warren Correctional Institution.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga County Prosecutor BY: Frank Romeo Zeleznikar Brett Hammond Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys.

          BEFORE: E.A. Gallagher, P.J., McCormack, J., and Celebrezze, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          EILEEN A. GALLAGHER, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant Javonte Hodges appeals, pro se, from the trial court's denial of his postconviction motion to withdraw his guilty pleas. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         {¶2} On May 21, 2012, a Cuyahoga County Grand Jury indicted Hodges on two counts of aggravated murder, two counts of aggravated robbery, one count of improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle and one count of having weapons while under disability. The aggravated murder and aggravated robbery counts included one-year and three-year firearm specifications. The charges arose out of a March 14, 2012 incident in which Hodges, along with two co-defendants, Deante Kidd and John Johnson, robbed, shot and killed Christopher Johnson as a result of a drug deal "gone bad." Hodges shot the victim in the back of the head at close range while the victim was driving a vehicle. See State v. Hodges, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 99511, 2013-Ohio-5025, ¶ 5 ("Hodges I ").

         {¶3} In August 2012, the trial court referred Hodges to the court psychiatric clinic to determine whether he was sane at the time of the act and competent to stand trial. In September 2012, defense counsel stipulated to the court psychiatric clinic's findings that Hodges was sane at the time of the act and competent to stand trial.

         {¶4} In December 2012, Hodges and the state reached a plea agreement. Hodges pled guilty to an amended count of murder with a three-year firearm specification and to one count each of aggravated robbery with a three-year firearm specification, improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle and having weapons while under disability. In exchange for Hodges' guilty pleas, the one-year firearm specifications were deleted and the remaining counts were nolled.

         {¶5} The murder, aggravated robbery and improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle counts were merged and the state elected to proceed to sentencing on the murder count. The trial court sentenced Hodges to an aggregate prison term of 20 years to life that incorporated three years on the firearm specification, to be served prior to and consecutively to a sentence of 15 years to life on the murder charge, and 24 months on the having weapons while under disability count, to be served consecutively to the sentence on the murder count.

         {¶6} Hodges appealed his sentences, arguing that the trial court had failed to properly consider and apply the principles and purposes of sentencing under R.C. 2929.11 and the sentencing factors under R.C. 2929.12, had failed to merge the murder and having weapons while under disability counts and had failed make the necessary findings for the imposition of consecutive sentences pursuant to R.C. 2929.14(C)(4). Hodges I, 2013-Ohio-5025, at ¶ 6. Finding that the trial court did not comply with R.C. 2929.14(C)(4), this court reversed Hodges' consecutive_sentences and remanded for resentencing. Id. at ¶ 26-29. After the trial court sentenced Hodges to consecutive sentences on remand, Hodges once again appealed the consecutive sentences. State v. Hodges, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 101145, 2014-Ohio-4690, ¶ 1 ("Hodges II "). This court affirmed the judgment, concluding that the trial court had made the necessary findings to support the imposition of consecutive sentences on the record, but remanded the case for the trial court to issue a nunc pro tunc sentencing journal entry that complied with State v. Bonnell, 140 Ohio St.3d 209, 2014-Ohio-3177, 16 N.E.3d 659. Hodges II at ¶ 16.

         {¶7} On March 9, 2016 - more than three years after he entered his guilty pleas - Hodges filed, pro se, a motion to withdraw his pleas. He argued that his guilty pleas were not made knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily because he was "under the heavy influence of mind-altering drugs" at the time he entered his guilty pleas and did not receive effective assistance of counsel. Hodges contended that his trial counsel was ineffective because he:

"fail[ed] to discuss the facts of the case with him; did not interview potential witnesses; disregarded information identifying the true offenders); told the defendant that he would be found guilty and sentenced to the maximum sentence regardless of whether he had committed the crime(s); failed to discuss defense tactics, strategies or the nature and effect of his guilty pleas(s) and made no effort to produce mitigation evidence at the sentencing hearing(s)."

         He also claimed that defense counsel had "promised" him that he would receive a plea deal to a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter "as his co-defendants received such." No affidavits or other evidentiary ...


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