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State v. Stoves

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eighth District, Cuyahoga

July 26, 2018

STATE OF OHIO PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE
v.
CHARLES W. STOVES DEFENDANT-APPELLANT

          Criminal Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CR-16-605099-A

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT, Susan J. Moran

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE, Michael C. O'Malley, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor, BY: Anna M. Faraglia Assistant County Prosecutor

          BEFORE: Jones, J., McCormack, P.J., and Celebrezze, J.

          JUDGMENT

          LARRY A. JONES, SR, J.:

         {¶1} In this appeal, defendant-appellant Charles W. Stoves ("Stoves") challenges the trial court's decision to deny his motion to disqualify counsel and the validity of his guilty plea that he made after the trial court denied his motion. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural History

         {¶2} In 2016, Stoves was charged with the following six crimes: Counts 1 and 2, aggravated murder; Count 3, kidnapping; Count 4, murder; Count 5, felonious assault; and Count 6, tampering with evidence. The charges stemmed from the death by blunt force trauma and strangulation of Lola Robinson. Stoves was declared indigent and appointed counsel (a private practice defense attorney and an assistant county public defender). He pleaded not guilty to the indictment.

         {¶3} The case was placed on the mental health docket, and the trial court referred Stoves to the court psychiatric clinic for a competency to stand trial evaluation.[1]

         {¶4} On November 3, 2016, Stoves, pro se, filed a motion to disqualify counsel.

         {¶5} On November 16, 2016, a pretrial hearing was held to review the psychiatric report. The evaluating doctor determined that Stoves was incompetent to stand trial, but that there was a reasonable probability that he could be restored to competency within the statutorily permitted time frame. The parties stipulated to the report. The trial court therefore ordered Stoves to the North Coast Behavioral Healthcare Center to be restored to competency.

         {¶6} After a period of restoration, North Coast issued a report finding that Stoves had been restored to competency. The state and the defense stipulated to the findings of the report, and the trial court found Stoves competent to stand trial.

          {¶7} At an April 2017 pretrial, Stoves indicated that he no longer sought to disqualify his counsel. The matter was scheduled to proceed to trial on Monday, September 25, 2017. In a May 2017 letter to the trial court, Stoves raised the issue of obtaining new counsel again. The trial court addressed it at a pretrial hearing, at which time Stoves stated that he did not want his attorneys removed because they told him they were trying to help him and he understood the information they were giving him.

         {¶8} On Thursday, September 21, 2017, Stoves filed a pro se motion to "remove, recuse, and dismiss defense counsel and reappoint new counsel." The trial court entertained the motion on September 25, the day set for trial, and denied it. Stoves waived his right to a jury trial, and the matter proceeded to a bench trial.

         {¶9} Midway through trial, however, Stoves accepted the state's plea offer.[2] He pleaded guilty to an amended Count 2, murder, and Count 3, kidnapping as indicted. The remaining counts were nolled. The trial court sentenced him to life with the possibility of parole after 15 years on the murder and ten years on the kidnapping, and ordered that the counts be served consecutive. Thus, the aggregate sentence was life with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Stoves now appeals, raising the following two assignments of error for our review:

I. The appellant's Sixth Amendment right to counsel was violated by the trial court's refusal to hear and appoint different counsel.
II. The trial court erred in accepting appellant's guilty plea and appellant's guilty plea is void and invalid in light of the fact that the plea was not entered knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently, in violation of appellant's right to due process and law under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 10 of the Ohio Constitution.

         Law and Analysis

          Motion ...


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