Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
MICHAEL JOSEPH LUGIAI, SR.
STATE OF TENNESSEE
Assigned on Briefs Date: January 12, 2017
from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2011-C-2551
J. Randall Wyatt, Jr., Judge
July 2012, the Petitioner, Michael Joseph Lugiai, Sr.,
entered a "best interests" guilty plea to four
counts of aggravated assault. He timely filed a petition for
post-conviction relief alleging that he received ineffective
assistance of counsel and that his plea was unknowing and
involuntary. Following a hearing on the petition, the
post-conviction court denied relief. After a thorough review,
we affirm the judgment of the post-conviction court.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Criminal
McClean Kelly, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Michael Joseph Lugiai, Sr.
Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Rachel
E. Willis, Deputy Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson III,
District Attorney General; and Chris Buford, Assistant
District Attorney, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., and Robert W. Wedemeyer, J.,
L. HOLLOWAY, JR., JUDGE
Factual and Procedural Background
appeal arises from the dismissal of a petition for
post-conviction relief. The Petitioner was indicted for
attempted first degree murder (Count 1), three counts of
aggravated child abuse (Counts 2, 3, and 4), and aggravated
assault (Count 5). He entered a best interest guilty plea to
four counts of aggravated assault in Counts 1 through 4.
Count 5 was dismissed. He was sentenced as a multiple
offender to nine years' incarceration on each count to be
served concurrently with release eligibility after service of
thirty-five percent of the sentence.
Petitioner appeared in court on July 16, 2012, for a jury
trial on the indicted offenses. Before the jury was brought
into court, the Petitioner asked for an opportunity to speak
with lead trial counsel and associate counsel. After meeting
with lead trial counsel and associate counsel, it was
announced that the Petitioner had agreed to a plea offer, and
the trial court allowed the Petitioner to enter a plea while
the jury remained outside the courtroom.
Petitioner's plea submission hearing, after lead trial
counsel explained the terms of the plea agreement, the trial
court explained the nature of a best interest guilty plea.
The trial court then informed the Petitioner of the nature of
the charges to which the plea was offered and the range of
punishment for aggravated assault and for the indicted
offenses. The Petitioner then asked if he could "say
something" and the following dialogue occurred:
[THE PETITIONER]: Your Honor, uh, I - I, can I, can I say
something, your Honor?
THE COURT: Sure. Yes.
[THE PETITIONER]: The way it was explained to me was that if
I do this it is in my best interest and I, and I want to do
this, but it was all contingent upon my wife and her charges,
charges that she has, and I was, I was under the impression
that I know [the assistant district attorney], I just want
to, I just don't want her to be in trouble, you know, and
. . .
THE COURT: And I don't know what that all is, but I mean,
it is fine with me if she is not in any trouble if that is
what is agreed to, but some of the things that you are
talking about I think may have to do with some sort of, you
know, discussion between you, your lawyer, and [the assistant
district attorney], that I haven't [b]een a party to, so
I don't know what that is.
(Whereupon, [the Petitioner] and [lead trial counsel]
[LEAD TRIAL COUNSEL]: Your Honor, I've informed [the
Petitioner] that I had been present when [the assistant
district attorney] discussed with his wife's attorney the
possible resolution to her case. I explained that was not
conditional on him pleading, that it would be dealt with
independently, but I attempted to give him my best impression
of what would happen with her case. However, I told him
clearly there was not an agreement with the State that her
charges would be resolved in any particular way based on this
plea, but . . .
THE COURT: Okay. Well, I guess what he is saying, [the
Petitioner], is they haven't finally determined that, but
it sounds like what [lead trial counsel] is saying is that he
has the impression that if this plea goes through on you that
the State might be inclined favorably towards your wife's
[LEAD TRIAL COUNSEL]: Yes, your Honor.
[THE PETITIONER]: Your Honor, I re - I just - I respect [the
assistant district attorney] and I just wanted to say that I
just wanted to put that out there and that is all I wanted to
say, so, yes, I'm taking it. I want to take this -
[LEAD TRIAL COUNSEL]: Offer.
[THE PETITIONER]: - plea, plea.
THE COURT: Okay. So, in other words, you, you kind of get the
feeling that since you do respect [the assistant district
attorney] that you ...