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State v. Jones

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

May 24, 2018

STATE OF OHIO PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
RAFIQ M. JONES DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

          Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-16-610785-A

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Jonathan N. Garver The Brownhoist Building.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Michael C. O'Malley Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Melissa Riley Assistant County Prosecutor The Justice Center.

          BEFORE: Jones, J., Kilbane, P.J., and Stewart, J.

          JOURNAL ENTRY AND OPINION

          LARRY A. JONES, SR, JUDGE.

         {¶1} Defendant-appellant Rafiq M. Jones ("Jones") appeals from the trial court's June 2017 judgment denying his motion to vacate his plea. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         {¶2} The record demonstrates that in October 2016, Jones was charged in a six-count indictment with crimes relating to a 1996 rape. Counts 1 and 2 charged rape; Count 3 charged aggravated robbery; Count 4 charged robbery; and Counts 5 and 6 charged kidnapping. All the counts contained one- and three-year firearm specifications. With the exception of Count 3, aggravated robbery, "Jane Doe" was named as the victim; Count 3 did not name a victim.

         {¶3} In April 2017, on the day the matter was set for trial, Jones pleaded guilty to Count 1, rape, amended to delete the firearm specifications, and Count 3, aggravated robbery, also amended to delete the firearm specifications. The remaining counts and specifications were dismissed.

         {¶4} That same day, immediately after the plea was taken and before the hearing was adjourned, defense counsel informed the court that Jones had "just mentioned in my ear that there is a concern." The court inquired of Jones as to what the concern was; Jones responded, the "rape charge. I didn't rape her." Defense counsel then made an oral motion to withdraw the plea. The assistant prosecuting attorney suggested that because the request was made prior to sentencing, the court should inquire about Jones's desire to withdraw his plea, and the court agreed and gave Jones an opportunity to explain.

         {¶5} Jones told the court "I want to apologize to you for wasting your time and everyone's time. I have [had] a change of heart and I don't feel comfortable with that." The court responded, "[y]ou can't withdraw your plea just because you've had a change of heart. * * * You have to give me a legal reason why you are wishing to withdraw your plea."

         {¶6} After consulting with his attorney, Jones told the court "I guess the legal reason would be * * * some of it I don't understand. A lot of these things I don't understand. A lot of it is not clear to me." The court asked Jones what was not clear to him, and Jones responded that he thought that he was pleading guilty to just one count-he did not know it was two counts. According to Jones, he thought he was pleading guilty to "one count of rape." The court told Jones that both the state and the court had reviewed his rights with him, and that the plea was to two counts. The court noted that Jones did not indicate during the plea colloquy that he had any questions, and he also told the court that he had not been threatened or promised anything for his plea.

         {¶7} The court asked Jones if he understood what rape and aggravated robbery meant, and he indicated he did. After pressing Jones for his legal reason for wanting to withdraw his plea, Jones said "I don't have a legal reason myself." The trial court denied his oral motion to withdraw his plea.

         {¶8} A few days later, and prior to sentencing, Jones, by and through his initial lawyer, filed a written motion to withdraw his plea. Jones thereafter retained a new attorney to represent him; new counsel filed a supplemental motion to withdraw the plea and requested an oral hearing. The court denied Jones's request to withdraw without a hearing. Thereafter, Jones, pro se, filed another motion to withdraw his plea.

         {¶9} At sentencing, the trial court informed Jones, that because he was represented by counsel, it would not be considering his pro se motion to withdraw his plea. Defense counsel asked the court to reconsider its ruling; the request was denied. The court then sentenced Jones to concurrent ten-year terms on both counts. Jones now raises the following four assignments of error for our review:

I. The trial court committed prejudicial error by not conducting a hearing on appellant's pre-sentencing motion to withdraw guilty pleas.
II. The trial court committed prejudicial error by denying appellant's pre-sentencing motion to withdraw guilty pleas.
III. Appellant's guilty pleas must be vacated because they were not made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily.
IV. Appellant's conviction and sentence for aggravated robbery, as charged in amended Count III of the indictment, should be vacated and set aside because Count III, in both the original indictment and the amended indictment, is defective and fails to charge an offense under Ohio law because no person was named as the alleged victim.

         The Plea and Denial of Motion to Withdraw; Hearing Requirement

         {¶10} We consider the first three assignments of error, which relate to the plea and the denial of Jones's request to vacate it, together. We first consider the third assignment of error, which relates to the plea itself.

         {¶11} Crim.R. 11(C)(2) requires that when a defendant pleads guilty, the trial court must personally address the defendant and (1) determine that the defendant is making the plea voluntarily with an understanding of the nature of the charges and the maximum penalty; (2) ensure the defendant understands the effect of the plea and that the court may proceed with judgment after accepting the plea; and (3) inform the defendant and ensure that the defendant understands that he or she is waiving his or her constitutional rights to a jury trial, to confront witnesses against him or her, to call witnesses in his or her ...


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