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Lester v. State

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

March 31, 2015

THOMAS EUGENE LESTER
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

Assigned on Briefs February 19, 2015

Appeal from the Criminal Court for Hamilton County No. 288339 Don W. Poole, Judge

James W. Clement, III, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Thomas Eugene Lester.

Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Neal Pinkston, District Attorney General; and Bates W. Bryan, Jr., Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

D. Kelly Thomas, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Norma McGee Ogle and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

OPINION

D. KELLY THOMAS, JR., JUDGE

FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

On January 14, 2013, the Petitioner pled guilty to theft of property valued at $1, 000 or more in case number 284721 and was sentenced to "supervised probation for a term of three years, for removal from which the [P]etitioner could petition the [c]ourt after successful completion of one year." Thereafter, the Petitioner was charged in case number 287087 with a violation of the Motor Vehicle Habitual Offenders Act ("the MVHOA"). Around the same time, he was also charged with aggravated assault.[2]

At the guilty plea submission hearing on May 6, 2013, the prosecutor stated that the Petitioner was conceding that he violated his probation in case number 284721 and that he would "be released on the time that he's served and the balance of the sentence will be on supervised probation." The State clarified that the length of the probation was three years. With respect to case number 287087, the Petitioner entered a plea of guilty to violation of the MVHOA and agreed to a one-year sentence, suspended to unsupervised probation, to run consecutive to case number 284721.

The State explained that the basis for the probation violation was an aggravated assault that "was dismissed down in general sessions court just recently." The MVHOA violation stemmed from the Petitioner's driving a motor vehicle on November 27, 2012, in Hamilton County. When asked for his driver's license, the Petitioner was unable to produce one and was subsequently taken into custody. The Petitioner had been declared a habitual motor vehicle offender in May 1999.

The trial court engaged the Petitioner in a plea colloquoy, explaining that he was pleading guilty and detailing the rights he was waiving by entering a plea. The Petitioner said that he understood the charges he was facing as well as the relevant maximum and minimum sentences. When asked whether he understood that he had the right to plead not guilty and proceed to trial, the Petitioner responded, "I do understand that, sir, but there's another side to the problem here, sir, and I just - - I understand." The court continued to question the Petitioner, and he agreed that he understood his rights.

The court asked the Petitioner whether he had signed the petition to enter a plea of guilty, and the Petitioner responded affirmatively. The Petitioner agreed that he either read the petition himself or had someone read it to him. He indicated that he understood the contents of the petition and the consequences of entering a guilty plea.

The trial court asked the Petitioner whether anyone had threatened him in any way or promised him anything other than the plea deal, and the Petitioner responded, "Yes, sir." The trial court asked the Petitioner what he had been promised, and the Petitioner answered, "Nothing, no, no, sir." The trial court inquired further, asking the Petitioner whether he was listening to the court's questions. The Petitioner indicated that he was listening and agreed that that the factual account provided by the prosecutor was true.

The trial court accepted the Petitioner's guilty plea for driving while being a habitual motor vehicle offender and sentenced him to one year as a Range I, standard offender. The sentence was suspended to time served with the remainder to be served on unsupervised probation for one year. The court asked the Petitioner whether he heard "the agreement that [the prosecutor] announced in the other case, that you're going to be on supervised probation for a period of three years and then this sentence will run consecutive to that one?" The Petitioner indicated that was his understanding of the agreement.

On May 10, 2013, the Petitioner filed two pro se post-conviction petitions. The first petition alleged that he was induced to plead guilty to violating the MVHOA because he was refused medical treatment while in jail. The second petition alleged that he had not ...


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