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State v. Knezeak

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Eleventh District, Ashtabula

July 29, 2019

STATE OF OHIO, Plaintiff-Appellee,
JOSEPH L. KNEZEAK, Defendant-Appellant.

          Criminal Appeal from the Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2018 CR 00349.

          Nicholas A. Iarocci, Ashtabula County Prosecutor, and Shelley M. Pratt, Assistant Prosecutor, Ashtabula County Courthouse, (For Plaintiff-Appellee).

          Edward F. Borkowski, Jr., (For Defendant-Appellant).



         {¶1} Appellant, Joseph Knezeak, appeals from the judgment of the Ashtabula County Court of Common Pleas, finding him guilty of one count of burglary, after entering a plea of guilty to the same. Appellant challenges the knowing, intelligent, and voluntary nature of his plea. We affirm.

         {¶2} Appellant was indicted on one count of burglary, in violation of R.C. 2911.12(A)(2), a felony of the second degree; one count of grand theft, in violation of R.C. 2913.02(A)(1)(B)(4), a felony of the third degree; and one count of theft, in violation of R.C. 2913.02(A)(1)(B)(2), a felony of the fifth degree. Though initially appellant pleaded not guilty, ultimately, appellant entered a plea of guilty to the burglary count; the remaining counts were nolled by the trial court. Appellant was then sentenced to a jointly recommended term of three-years imprisonment. Appellant now appeals and assigns the following as error:

         {¶3} "Appellant's guilty plea was not knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily made."

         {¶4} A guilty plea entered in a criminal case must be made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily to be valid under both the United States and Ohio Constitutions. Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 241 (1969); State v. Engle, 74 Ohio St.3d 525, 527 (1996). Crim.R. 11 "was adopted to ensure that certain information necessary for entering a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary plea would be conveyed to a defendant." State v. Gensert, 11th Dist. Trumbull No. 2015-T-0084, 2016-Ohio-1163, ¶9.

         {¶5} When determining whether the trial court has met its obligations under Crim.R. 11 in accepting a guilty plea, appellate courts have distinguished between constitutional and non-constitutional rights. With respect to the constitutional rights, a trial court must advise a defendant that, by pleading guilty, he or she is waiving: "(1) the right to a jury trial, (2) the right to confront one's accusers, (3) the right to compulsory process to obtain witnesses, (4) the right to require the state to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and (5) the privilege against compulsory self-incrimination." State v. Veney, 120 Ohio St.3d 176, 2008-Ohio-5200 at syllabus. A trial court must strictly comply with those provisions of Crim.R. 11(C) that relate to the waiver of the constitutional rights and the failure to do so invalidates the plea. Veney, supra. "Strict compliance" does not require a verbatim recitation of the rights being waived. State v. Ballard, 66 Ohio St.2d 473, 480 (1981). Rather, the standard requires the court to explain or refer to the rights in a manner reasonably intelligible to the defendant entering the guilty plea. Id.

         {¶6} In contrast, the remaining so-called non-constitutional rights set forth under Crim.R. 11 require the court to: (1) determine the defendant understands the nature of the charge(s) and possesses an understanding of the legal and practical effect(s) of the plea; (2) determine the defendant understands the maximum penalty that could be imposed; and (3) determine that the defendant is aware that, after entering a guilty plea, the court may proceed to judgment and sentence. State v. Nero, 56 Ohio St.3d 106, 107-108 (1990). Although literal compliance with Crim. R. 11 with respect to the non-constitutional rights is preferred, an advisement that substantially complies with the rule will suffice. Nero, supra. A court substantially complies where the record demonstrates the defendant, under the totality of the circumstances, understood the implications of the plea and the rights waived. Id.

         {¶7} Appellant does not take issue with the court's advisements regarding the constitutional rights he waived. And our review of the plea-hearing transcript demonstrates the trial court thoroughly explained each constitutional right appellant was waiving and appellant represented he understood the rights and the consequences of waiving the same. Moreover, appellant does not argue the trial court failed to establish he understood the maximum penalty the court could impose upon acceptance of the plea, nor does he claim he was unaware that the court could proceed to judgment and sentence after accepting the plea. Rather, appellant asserts he did not have an adequate understanding of the nature of the burglary offense to which he pleaded. He specifically maintains he did not understand the element of the offense that required the state to prove the structure into which he entered was a habitation of a person who was "present or likely to be present." We do not agree.

         {¶8} At the plea hearing, the trial court detailed each element of the crime of burglary to which appellant was pleading guilty. The court further elucidated the meaning of each element of the crime towards the end of affording appellant a full appreciation and understanding of what the state was required to prove. Among these elements was the requirement that the state prove that a person would be or would likely be present in the habitation in question when appellant entered the same. Appellant stated he understood that he was waiving his right to have the state prove each element beyond a reasonable doubt. The court subsequently queried: "And of course when you say you're pleading guilty it means you're admitting everything the state would have to prove for you to be found guilty of Count 1. You understand that?" Appellant responded in the affirmative. This representation, unto itself, is sufficient to establish appellant understood the nature of the charge and the consequence of pleading guilty.

         {¶9} Later, during the plea colloquy, the court asked appellant to explain, in his own words, the factual basis for the charge to which he was pleading. Appellant responded:

         {¶10} I was out late at night, and Jeremy Hennesey - - he's a heroin dealer and a meth dealer - - and I seen my girlfriend on the back of his bike and I followed 'em to this house that's his. It's [an] abandoned house, but he takes girls there and he gives them meth. And I found out that my girl was with him, and I got, I lost it. I got real mad and I just went there and nobody was there, and I walked in his house and I took everything and I took it to my house. And I was just wanting him to come to my house and be a man. From then, forgive what I say, but I wanted to beat his ass. ...

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