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State v. Stewart

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

February 22, 2018

STATE OF OHIO PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
MOSE D. STEWART DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

         Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-16-603483-A

          Paul A. Mancino, Jr. ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT

          Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga County Prosecutor, Carl Mazzone Assistant Prosecuting Attorney ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE

          BEFORE: Celebrezze, J., Laster Mays, P.J., and Keough, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          FRANK D. CELEBREZZE, JR., J.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant, Mose Stewart ("appellant"), brings this appeal challenging his convictions for attempted rape and disrupting public services. Specifically, appellant argues that he was denied his right to counsel and that his due process rights were violated when the trial court denied his motion and request to withdraw his guilty plea and failed to discuss the results of his competency evaluation on the record. After a thorough review of the record and law, this court affirms.

         I. Factual and Procedural History

         {¶2} The instant matter arose from a November 30, 2015 incident involving appellant and his cousin. In Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-16-603483-A, appellant was charged in a four-count indictment on March 1, 2016, with (1) attempted rape, a second-degree felony in violation of R.C. 2923.02 and 2907.02(A); (2) gross sexual imposition, a fourth-degree felony in violation of R.C. 2907.05(A)(1); (3) kidnapping, a first-degree felony in violation of R.C. 2905.01(A)(4) with a furthermore specification alleging that "the victim of the offense is eighteen years of age or older"; and (4) disrupting public services, a fourth-degree felony in violation of R.C. 2909.04(A)(3). Appellant was arraigned on March 9, 2016. He pled not guilty to the indictment.

         {¶3} Appellant waived his right to a jury trial and elected to try the case to the trial court. A bench trial commenced on December 15, 2016. During the state's case in chief, appellant decided to accept the plea agreement that the state offered during pretrial proceedings.

         {¶4} On December 15, 2016, appellant pled guilty to attempted rape as charged in Count 1 of the indictment and disrupting public services as charged in Count 4 of the indictment. Counts 2 and 3 were nolled. Pursuant to the plea agreement, appellant would be required to register as a Tier III sex offender.

         {¶5} Throughout the trial court's proceedings, appointed counsel made several requests to withdraw as counsel, appellant made several requests for new counsel, and appellant made multiple requests to withdraw his guilty plea. The trial court denied these motions and requests, which will be discussed in further detail in the analysis of appellant's first and second assignments of error below.

         {¶6} The trial court held a sentencing hearing on January 5, 2017. During this hearing, the court reviewed appellant's reporting requirements as a Tier III sex offender. Appellant indicated that he did not understand the court's advisements. As a result, the trial court continued sentencing proceedings.

         {¶7} The trial court held a sentencing hearing on January 12, 2017. Defense counsel advised the trial court that appellant wanted to have new counsel appointed to represent him and to withdraw his guilty plea. The trial court denied appellant's request for new counsel and to withdraw his guilty plea. Furthermore, counsel stated that he was concerned about appellant's mental and physical health and requested that appellant be referred for a psychological evaluation. The trial court referred appellant to Northcoast Behavioral Healthcare for a competency evaluation over the state's objection.

         {¶8} The trial court held a hearing on March 6, 2017. The court indicated that it received the court psychiatric clinic's report, which concluded that appellant "is malingering and does not have a present mental condition that causes him to be unable to understand the nature and objective of the legal proceeding against him and assist in his defense." (Tr. 140.) The state stipulated to the court psychiatric clinic's report. Defense counsel and appellant objected to the report, and appellant specifically disputed the finding that he was malingering. As a result, the trial court continued the matter in order to schedule a hearing at which the doctor that evaluated appellant could testify regarding his evaluation and report.

         {¶9} On March 27, 2017, the prosecutor, defense counsel, and appellant stipulated to the court psychiatric clinic's report. As a result, the trial court proceeded to sentencing. The trial court sentenced appellant to a prison term of six years on Count 1 and a prison term of 18 months on Count 4. The trial court ordered the counts to run concurrently. The trial court reviewed appellant's reporting requirements as a Tier III sex offender. Appellant indicated that he understood these requirements.

         {¶10} The trial court also addressed appellant's violation of postrelease control in Cuyahoga C.P. No. CR-13-578539-B.[1] The trial court terminated appellant's community control sanctions and ordered him to serve the balance of his sentence in prison. The trial court ordered appellant's six-year prison sentence to be served consecutively to the sentence for violating postrelease control.

         {¶11} On April 7, 2017, appellant filed the instant appeal challenging the trial court's judgment. He assigns four errors for review:

I. [Appellant] was denied his right to counsel when the court refused to allow counsel to withdraw.
II. [Appellant] was denied due process of law when the court refused to allow [appellant] to withdraw his plea or conduct a hearing.
III. [Appellant] was denied due process of law when the court failed to record on the record the results of a competency evaluation.
IV. [Appellant] was denied due process of law when the court ignored [appellant's] request during a hearing.

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Right to Counsel

         {¶12} In his first assignment of error, appellant argues that he was denied his constitutional right to counsel when the trial court denied appointed counsel's motions to withdraw as counsel and appellant's requests for new counsel.

         {¶13} Pursuant to the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Section 10, Article I of the Ohio Constitution, a criminal defendant has the right to counsel. State v. Milligan, 40 Ohio St.3d 341, 533 N.E.2d 724 (1988), paragraph one of the syllabus. A criminal defendant does not, however, have the right to counsel with whom he has a rapport or with whom he can develop a meaningful lawyer-client relationship. State v. Henness, 79 Ohio St.3d 53, 65, 679 N.E.2d 686 (1997). "Under the federal and state constitutions, the defendant is simply entitled to the effective assistance of legal counsel." State v. Hudson, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 98967, 2013-Ohio-1992, ¶ 7.

It is well established that an indigent defendant is not entitled to the counsel of his choosing, but rather, only the right to competent, effective representation. See [State v. Murphy, 91 Ohio St.3d 516, 523, 747 N.E.2d 765 (2001)]. Further, the right to counsel does not guarantee the defendant a meaningful relationship with counsel. See Morris v. Slappy (1983), 461 U.S. 1, 13-14, 103 S.Ct. 1610, 75 L.Ed.2d 610; State v. Pruitt (1984), 18 Ohio App.3d 50, 57, 18 Ohio B. 163, 480 N.E.2d 499. In order for a criminal defendant to discharge a court-appointed attorney, the defendant must show a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship of such magnitude as to jeopardize the defendant's right to the effective assistance of counsel. See State v. Coleman (1988), 37 Ohio St.3d 286, 525 N.E.2d 792, paragraph four of the syllabus. Thus, an indigent defendant is entitled to new counsel "only upon a showing of good cause, such as a conflict of interest, a complete breakdown in communication, or an irreconcilable conflict which leads to an apparently unjust result." State v. Edsall (1996), 113 Ohio App.3d 337, 339, 680 N.E.2d 1256; see, also, State v. Blankenship (1995), 102 Ohio App.3d 534, 558, 657 N.E.2d 559.

State v. Hawkins, 8th Dist. Cuyahoga No. 91930, 2009-Ohio-4368, ¶ 63.

         {¶14} This court reviews a trial court's decision on a motion to withdraw as counsel for an abuse of discretion. State v. Williams,99 Ohio St.3d 493, 2003-Ohio-4396, 794 N.E.2d 27, ΒΆ 135. Similarly, we review a trial court's decision regarding a defendant's request for substitute counsel for an abuse of ...


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